Scottish Government plans 'key role' for sector

The Scottish Government used its slot at a voluntary sector conference this week to assure the sector that it will have a key role to play in delivering "transformational change in society" despite uncertainty after the reorganisation of government funding.

A new agreement between the Scottish Government and the county’s 32 local authorities has seen the removal of ring fencing around many funds that local authorities distribute. The amount of money passed to councils has also been frozen.

A survey conducted at the conference on the third sector and local government, run this week by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, revealed that 45 per cent of delegates had not yet had their funding for 2008-09 confirmed by their local authorities, while 32 per cent had secured funding for only one year.

John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth, told delegates that the funding settlement for local councils had been tight because the increase in Scotland’s budget announced in last October’s delayed Comprehensive Spending Review had grown by only 1.4 per cent.

“We have been in a most peculiar funding year,” he said. “We had only three weeks to think about spending priorities instead of two years.”

He defended the removal of ring fencing and emphasised the sector’s role in determining spending priorities. He also reiterated a previous announcement that the Scottish Government was committed to increasing its funding for the voluntary sector by 37 per cent over the next three years.

Councillor Harry McGuigan, spokesman for community wellbeing and health at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, emphasised the opportunities the new funding arrangements offered to help organisations find sustainable long-term solutions to social problems. “We need to think in terms of impacts and outcomes, not inputs and outputs,” he said.

Gavin Whitefield, chair of local government chief executives’ body Solace Scotland, said the relationship between local government and the sector had been “anything but effective” in recent years. He said council officers should put council services and the voluntary sector on an equal footing when considering what cuts to make.

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