Posts Tagged: Comprehensive spending review

Tory minister praises Labour council shock…

After a 28 per cent cut to the budget for local authorities was announced in the comprehensive spending review, David Cameron warned councils across the country not to cut funding for the voluntary sector first.

His concern, he has said on several occasions, is that some local authorities will “pull up the drawbridge” and protect their own staff by scrapping grants to charities.

But Lambeth Council leader Steve Reed set out a much more radical plan for saving money, in a speech at the launch of an Acevo report on personalisation last night. And the voluntary sector is at its core.

Lambeth is planning to become the first “co-operative council” in Britain and has been in talks about what this means for more than a year. Talks have become more urgent, however, since the council learned last month that of the £80m it will have to save over the next five years, £40m would have to come from next year’s budget.

So, here’s Reed’s plan. The council will set up pilot projects in which charities and community groups deliver public services. Over time, there will be more and more of these until a “tipping point” is reached and most of the council’s social services are being delivered in this way.

When this happens, the council will be a “service enabler” and a “support platform” that the voluntary groups delivering public services will be able to use when they need it. The council will no longer be a service provider.

It’s a big vision, and big questions about funding for the voluntary groups will need to be addressed. But if it works, it could provide a model for councils across the country and a lifeline for the thousands of charities threatened with closure by local council cuts.

And the biggest surprise? The Conservative Nick Hurd heaped praise on Lambeth’s Labour council at the event last night. “I want to congratulate Steve Reed for this really important work,” he said.

Reed responded:”It’s not the first time Hurd and I have shared a platform and said things that are so similar. This is starting to get worrying…”

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Pensions: the dormant volcano?

George Osborne indicated during the comprehensive spending review that he expects to take up most of the recommendations in Lord Hutton’s interim report on pensions, published earlier this month.

Hutton’s review, commissioned by Osborne earlier this year, admitted in effect that the government could not afford its pension debts, and recommended steps to reduce costs. This affects many charities that joined local government pension schemes several years ago, and are now finding out that, without knowing it, they bought land on an economic fault line – a dormant financial volcano.

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Was the £100m Transition Fund due to be allocated to the sector anyway?

The dust has settled a little following the comprehensive spending review, and it may be time to take a look at whether the Office of Civil Society did well or badly out of it.

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Nice transition fund – what about the rest?

There are a couple of striking things about the new hundred-million-pound Transition Fund for the voluntary sector, announced in the yesterday comprehensive spending review yesterday.

The first is that it happened at all, given the overall 19 per cent cut in public spending over the next four years. The civil society minister, Nick Hurd, has done well to secure it.

Read more on Nice transition fund – what about the rest?…