Sector queries infrastructure plan

The Government's £80m infrastructure plan for the voluntary sector will be a waste of money if it is not based on a long-term strategy, a coalition of voluntary sector umbrella bodies has warned.

The Home Office's long-awaited report on its infrastructure proposals is expected to be released by voluntary sector minister Fiona Mactaggart at a conference in Leicester today.

The Home Office has refused to say what will be in the report, which is due to go out for a 12-week consultation. But it is understood that a second draft has been rewritten by a more senior official.

The three sector umbrella bodies - NCVO, NACVS and Community Matters - have all seen drafts of the report and come together in a rare show of unanimity to present their view of what the Government should do to help sector infrastructure bodies, such as rural community councils and councils for voluntary service.

Their joint report, called A Model for the Future, stresses the sector's desire for an infrastructure model "that supports the full range of voluntary activity, not just those activities that help deliver the Government's policy agenda."

Based in part on one of the NCVO's largest ever consultations, the report calls for an infrastructure which is sector-owned and led, sustainable, and operates at local, regional and national level.

NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington said: "Government support for voluntary and community infrastructure must be sustainable and be built on a long-term strategy, otherwise it could be wasting £80m of taxpayers' money."

NCVO wants the money to be spent on staff training and the capacity-building of organisations, rather than short-term, front-line delivery projects which could disappear in a year.

"Investment in bodies which can build the capacity of the voluntary sector at a local, regional and national level are far more likely to be sustainable," said Etherington. To achieve real long-term change we need the Government to commit to a strategic long-term approach."

In May, former voluntary sector minister Lord Filkin indicated the review would question the role of umbrella bodies: "If we are to give funds to an intermediary, it must be clear that they are able to deliver more than if we give it direct to a voluntary organisation," he said.

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