Umbrella bodies will remind councils of their duty to charities

Ben Kernighan of the NCVO, working with Acevo and Navca, will ask members to report breaches of government guidance

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the NCVO
Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the NCVO

Three of the voluntary sector’s main representative bodies are to write to local authority chief executives to remind them of government rules that protect voluntary organisations from badly managed cuts.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, chief executives body Acevo and local infrastructure group Navca will jointly contact all council leaders next week.

They will highlight key passages of the Communities and Local Government department’s Best Value Statutory Guidance, which was introduced in September last year.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles produced the single-page guidance in the wake of widespread concern last year about charities suffering last-minute, disproportionate cuts from councils.

The guidance, which applies to all local and central government departments and their agencies, says voluntary organisations should receive at least three months’ notice of funding cuts.

This means any council that has not yet informed organisations of funding reductions in the financial year beginning in April is potentially in breach of the guidance.

The guidance imposes a duty to consult voluntary organisations on "all stages of the commissioning cycle". It also says councils considering cuts should "actively engage" organisations "as early as possible" and should "seek to avoid passing on disproportionate reductions".

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the NCVO, said it planned to brief members about the guidance and ask them to pass on details of abuses.

"It is possible that any breach could be contested legally," said Kernighan.

He said councils discovered their budget settlements from central government late last year.

"They have less excuse for making late decisions this year and they also now have this statutory guidance," he added. "Their obligations for fulfilling it are now clear and explicit."

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