The leaders of 10 councils have called on the government to urgently provide funding for the charity sector to prevent its collapse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The council leaders, all of whom are from the Labour Party, said community organisations needed access to an emergency grant package and clear guidance on whether furloughed employees at charities could still volunteer their services during the Covid-19 crisis.
Meanwhile Unite, the largest union in Britain and Ireland, has also joined calls for the government to provide emergency funding for the charity sector.
Businesses have been told by the government that furloughed staff cannot volunteer for their organisations during the pandemic, and in return the government will pay up to 80 per cent of staff members’ wages up to £2,500 a month.
But the council leaders have argued that community organisations are suffering from both a loss of income and a rise in demand because of Covid-19 and the social distancing measures needed to prevent its spread.
The letter says that an emergency grant package is needed to help with cash flow during the next few weeks and months.
“A community organisation is not a typical small business – many cannot close for three months in the way that a bar or cinema can,” the letter says.
It adds that many will be remaining open to support their communities, continuing to spend while income through rents and trading drops off.
“Never before have the distinctive characteristics of community organisations been so valuable to and so valued by local authorities,” the letter says.
“So we are calling on government to do whatever it takes to support our local community organisations so we can work together to overcome the immediate crisis and begin to build our way out the other side.”
The signatories are all members of the Keep it Local Network, which is convened by Locality, the national membership network for local community organisations, in partnership with the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales.
The councils that have signed are: the west Yorkshire councils in Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale; the London boroughs of Hackney and Lewisham; Bristol; Newcastle; Oldham; Wirral; and Rotherham.
Unite calls for urgent financial support
Siobhan Endean, national officer for the community, youth and not-for-profit sector at Unite, said the voluntary sector was facing a crisis in funding while trying to meet unprecedented demand for its services.
“We need urgent action from the government to ensure that the voluntary and not-for-profit sector and those employed in it are protected amid the current crisis,” she said.
“Government has rightly identified our members as ‘key workers’, and that’s why Chancellor Rishi Sunak must unveil specific measures to assist the sector as a matter of urgency.”