'No guarantee' Futurebuilders pot will remain £215m

Campbell Robb, director general of the Office of the Third Sector, unable to assure Commons committee

The director general of the Office of the Third Sector remains hopeful that Futurebuilders will continue to be a £215m fund, but cannot give a guarantee.

Campbell Robb was responding to questions from Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, about whether the Futurebuilders budget had been reduced to help pay for the Government's £40.5m third sector action plan, which was announced by the OTS in February.

During an evidence hearing by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Bacon asked if money committed by Futurebuilders but not yet drawn down had been diverted to the action plan.

Robb said the OTS had allocated the action plan £13.5m from an end-of-year pot for funding "flexibilities", but this money had accumulated over a number of years from various sources.

He said it was not easy to give precise funding figures for Futurebuilders, which gives loans to charities to help them bid for public service contracts, because it was difficult to assess how much investees actually spent and how quickly they drew down funding. "We are still hopeful it will be a £215m fund, but we cannot commit to it," he said.

Robb did, however, confirm that the action plan would be worth £40.5m and not the £42.5m the OTS originally said.

The volunteer brokerage scheme, a key strand of the action plan that pays charities to provide volunteering opportunities for jobseekers, is worth £8m and not the £10m previously stated.

Robb said the contract for the scheme, which is being managed by the Department for Work and Pensions, had just been signed for £8m.

The remainder of the action plan is being funded by £11.5m from a Department of Health fund and £7.5m from a reprioritisation of OTS funds.

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