From Hampshire to Liverpool to London, councils up and down the country have been announcing cuts to voluntary sector budgets.
But Thurrock Council bucked the trend when it announced earlier this month that it would protect more than £600,000 of grants for voluntary organisations, despite a £4m reduction in its budget for the current financial year.
Naya Naqvi, chief executive of Thurrock Council for Voluntary Service, which represents voluntary sector organisations, played a key role in the council’s decision.
She says she decided early in the budgetary process that her organisation needed to work closely with the council to convince it that it was not the right time to make cuts to the voluntary sector.
"Around May 2009 the council started making it clear to us that there were likely to be voluntary sector funding cuts of about 7 per cent, so we decided to take action," she tells Third Sector.
Last summer, Thurrock CVS spoke to more than 100 local voluntary sector organisations to produce a report that included analysis of their concerns about council funding. Naqvi presented the findings to the council in November.
According to Naqvi, the document prompted the council to carry out its own consultation with the voluntary sector over the next three months. With the help of Thurrock CVS, the authority held one-to-one meetings with many organisations.
Among other findings, the impact assessment found that when the council gives £1 to a voluntary organisation, it is able to raise on average a further £9. It also found that because of the recession, many more people need voluntary sector organisations than before.
Naqvi says this finally persuaded the council that it was not the right time to make cuts to spending on the voluntary sector.
Since the decision, three other councils for voluntary service have been in touch with Naqvi to find out how Thurrock CVS helped to save the sector budget.
"I tell them to work with [people in] the statutory sector with a positive attitude, understanding that they have their limits and challenges as well," she says. "Compact Voice has also been a huge support with this and we couldn’t have done any of it without them."