Tories refer Futurebuilders questions to National Audit Office

Office of the Third Sector denies charity loan fund was raided to pay for third sector action plan

The shadow charities minister is asking the National Audit Office to reopen its recent investigation into the operation of Futurebuilders England, the fund that invests in charities hoping to deliver public services.

Conservative MP Nick Hurd said the latest responses from the Office of the Third Sector threw up more questions than they answered about the fund, so he was referring the matter to the NAO and the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Hurd had asked the OTS to clarify information he had received that the £215m Futurebuilders fund was being cut by £30m between now and 2011 to help finance the recently announced £42.5m third sector action plan (10 March page 3 and 3 March, page 1)

A spokesman for the OTS said: "These accusations are wrong. Futurebuilders' funding has not been reduced. We are still committed to making it a £215m fund.

"For our internal accounting purposes, we have worked with Futurebuilders to estimate the likely spend in the financial years 2009/10 and 2010/11. This has nothing to do with funding the action plan."

The spokesman declined to give figures for the likely spend in the two years he referred to and said they would be revealed in the annual accounts of the Cabinet Office.

Hurd said the Government had admitted there was no new money in the action plan.

"In the light of that, what does being 'committed' to maintaining Futurebuilders' £215m capital base mean?" he asked. "Who loses as a result? How will the internal accounting procedures reflect this?

"It is clear that there are going to be losers in this process, but the Government doesn't want to talk about that.

"We believe it is in no one's interest for the Government to be secretive about these processes and keep the sector in the dark."

He said the whole episode underlined the vulnerability of Futurebuilders: "They don't hold any cash and are subject to the whims of the Treasury. For all the great work they do, the fund and the sector deserve better."

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