Urban Forum makes all four staff redundant in restructure

Sally Polanski, joint chair of the umbrella body for community organisations, says it will use trustees and associates rather than paid staff

Sally Polanski
Sally Polanski

Urban Forum, the umbrella body for more than 900 community organisations, is making all four of its staff redundant as part of a restructure.

The organisation, which represents community and voluntary groups with an interest in urban and regional policy, said in a statement issued yesterday that it was moving to a new model of operating that will use trustees and associates rather than paid staff.

Its four employees will be made redundant on 31 March and the new structure will come into force in April. It will then rely on trustees to keep the organisation running and manage its day-to-day operation.

A statement from Sally Polanski and Sal Hampson, the organisation’s joint chairs, said Urban Forum would be "relaunching as a more streamlined and mobile organisation with the aim of providing the key information services that members value, and offering services in partnership with other organisations".

The statement said: "We have considered this line of action carefully over a significant period of time. Although we realise that to continue doing what Urban Forum is valued for we need to operate more as a business, we also want to retain the grounding in community needs that comes from being a membership-based organisation."

Polanski told Third Sector that the changes had been made mainly because of falling income. 

Urban Forum’s income fell from £432,343 in 2010/11 to £319,913 the following year. It lost strategic partners funding from the Office for Civil Society, which was worth £96,000 in 2010/11 when the department restructured the programme as part of a plan to phase it out next year.

"We are still working through some of the implementation ideas at the moment," said Polanski. "The idea is that there will be a board of trustees that will focus on the activities, such as lobbying, to try to maintain a national voice for members."

The organisation received the bulk of its funding from trusts and foundations, she said. It had already suspended membership fees, she said, because many community groups could not afford to pay them.

The charity said last year that it would try to develop a new approach to the way it worked after Toby Blume, its former chief executive, left last summer.

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