'Respect our autonomy'

Six out of 10 voluntary organisations say local public bodies do not understand the importance of sector independence, according to research published today.

Stronger Independence, Stronger Relationships, Better Outcomes also says that 24 per cent feel there is unwarranted influence in their internal affairs, and 69 per cent of funded groups fear campaigning would affect their future funding.

The research was commissioned by Compact Voice, which promotes the Compact, to mark 'local sector independence day' today. The day was organised amid fears that many public bodies are failing to respect the independence of charities (Third Sector, 9 May).

The Compact seeks to support charities' independence by upholding their right to campaign regardless of funding agreements. But 65 per cent of the 106 Compact Voice members surveyed say there is "a gap between what their local Compact says on independence and what happens in practice".

The report concludes: "In only a minority of areas covered by the survey do public bodies have a reasonable understanding of sector independence. Far fewer may realise why it is important for them."

However, the report also urges charities to be more assertive with public bodies.

"The sector should consider whether it is being a sufficiently proactive partner in working with government to create better conditions for local sector independence to thrive," it reads.

"In particular, securing funding for local Compact implementation is long overdue."

Compact Voice hopes the research will provide a starting point for joint discussion locally and nationally.

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