Nottinghamshire County Council has agreed to attend an independently chaired meeting with local charities about its funding cuts to the voluntary sector, after being challenged on live radio about the effect of the cuts on vulnerable people.
During a discussion on BBC Radio Nottinghamshire this morning, Joe Irvin, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, asked Martin Suthers, the council’s deputy leader, to meet local charities to discuss the cuts.
Suthers did not agree on air to do so, but a spokesman for the council said afterwards the deputy leader was "happy to have the meeting".
The Conservative-led council has cut its voluntary sector grants budget for 2011/12 by about 34 per cent, compared with a cut of about 8 per cent in its grant from central government.
The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has written to Suthers to say the funding decision does not follow statutory guidance published by the Communities and Local Government department, which says local authorities should not make "disproportionate" funding cuts to the voluntary sector.
The council’s 2012/13 budget, agreed at a meeting last night, adds an extra £50,000 to the fund, taking its total value to £2,141,506.
The council spokesman also said it had held a meeting in June with between 80 and 100 local charities, and had held an "extensive consultation" about the funding decisions.
Earlier this week Kevin Curley, Irvin’s predecessor at Navca, urged the voluntary sector in Nottinghamshire to take legal action against the council.
"I am disappointed by the voluntary sector leaders in Nottinghamshire," he said. "They have been slow to react and, to the best of my knowledge, there is no organised plan to mount a legal challenge – and there really ought to be."
He wrote on Twitter: "What on earth is wrong with VCS leaders in Notts? Why will you not act to protect the people you exist to serve? It's up to sector leaders in Notts to act. It's called duty."