'Political realities' force merger of Cumbria CVSs

A report on the merger of five councils for voluntary service in the north-west of England has said the organisations had to combine if they were to stay relevant.

"There is a view that the Cumbria CVS had no choice but to merge because of the political and funding climate," says Anatomy of a Merger, which umbrella organisation Navca published last week.

Cumbria County Council's bid for unitary status and a ChangeUp infrastructure programme in the county were two factors that influenced the merger.

However, the report also says the merger "demonstrates it is possible to reconcile the interests of diverse, individual districts with the wider county or sub-regional agenda".

Barrow, Cumbria, Eden, South Lakeland and West Cumbria CVSs announced the country's first county-wide CVS in March.

Jessica Riddle, chair of Cumbria CVS, said the new organisation would make efficiency savings on back-office functions. She added that no jobs were at risk and no local offices would close.

"ChangeUp puts a lot of pressure on the lead officers in each district," she said. "The merger means that work can be coordinated and be more strategic."

Navca's report says it was regrettable that not all of the CVSs' trustees supported the merger. "Some feared their districts would suffer," it says.

But Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, said the move would mean "real benefits for groups and communities in Cumbria.

"It's a testament to the people involved that they have put aside self-interest in favour of meeting the county-wide needs of local CVS organisations," he said.

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