In my earlier article, “Derby City Council has “lost the plot” on Voluntary Sector Grants” I provided a critique of the Council’s most recent consultation into the funding of the Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) sector. The original process was due to end on the 13th November but was extended by a few weeks to allow each group to provide more information on the wider benefits that they were achieving by the Derby City Council funding. At face value, this extension would give the Council a better understanding of the “value for money” leveraged by each organisation and be influential in their decision making. This could inform where cuts could be made, or provide an insight as to where funding should be maintained to avoid consequential cost increases in other parts of Council spending ( e.g. Social care)
Results were initially planned for issue in December 2015. By 15th December 2015 – nothing has been published.
Quite separately, on 2nd December 2015 the Council issued another consultation “Derby’s 15 Year Vision and Budget Consultation 2016-2019” a 73 page document providing details on the spending plans, and proposed budget cuts for the coming years.
On page 43 of this document, it states:
“Voluntary, Community and Faith Sector Grants – The Council currently has grant funding agreements with Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) Sector organisations for a range of preventative and information services. In the context of the Council moving towards only delivering services that are a statutory requirement, a consultation with providers and customers of voluntary, community and faith organisations will be undertaken. The Council will only be able to fund services that support the statutory requirements of the Council. This will result in a saving of £773,000 in 2016/17 and a further £500,000 in future years.”
This makes reference to the existing consultation albeit suggesting that it will be carried out in the future – unless of course the Council plan to do yet another consultation on this subject.
The grant is split between a large range of organisations including Community Action, Padley, Sahahra, Indian Community Centre, Sight Support, Age UK, St James Centre, Derbyshire Chinese Welfare, Disability Direct, Bosnian Centre and many others. All proposed to be 100% cut from 1 April 2016.
This has been proposed , BEFORE, the consultation on the VCF grants has concluded. To clarify this position I asked the Council.:
Is the proposal to cut all VCF grants by 100% to achieve a £773k saving in 2016/17, and how will £500k be delivered in subsequent years given the total budget is £577k?
If yes, what was the point of the (VCF grant) consultation?
If no, how should this paragraph be interpreted, and why is there a difference to the previous grant awards of £577k?
The response I received from a Derby City Council spokesperson was:
“The saving of £773,000 comprises £573,000 saving from VCF grants, and an additional £200,000 from a VCF contract.
We will seek to make future years’ savings from various budget areas by making changes to services or contracts.”
The reply chose to side-step confirming that 100% of all grants would be cut from 1 April, and also avoided the question as to why they appeared to be ignoring the outcome of the VCF grant consultation. It is clear that they were planning to cut the grants by 100% regardless of the views of the charities involved and the service users who benefit from their support
This further reinforces my view that the Council has completely “lost the plot” on the funding of the Voluntary sector. Now they have shown their contempt for the public and their own process by announcing the conclusions of a consultation before it has been completed and before all the voices have been recognised.
Each of the charities who will be affected by these cuts are supported by many volunteers ( a conservative estimate could be 10 times the number of paid staff) who are instrumental in delivering their many services – much of which will be statutory. In the saving of £573k, the Council will take £5m+ (est) value of resources out of the system, I just wonder if anyone has thought how that this would be replaced?
Answer – Extra cost to the Council, or the sick, poor, old, vulnerable and needy being left to their own personal isolation with no replacement support.
And before Mr Banwait blames the Tory Government cuts, I would remind him that £573k represents 0.3% of his entire budget which can easily be managed out of an organisation that spends £220m per year. This is about a will to do the right thing and not to make draconian decisions totally influenced by political points-scoring.
I would ask him one question:
“Do you know that the saving of £573k from the VCF grant budget will not result in costs, greater than £573k, being incurred elsewhere in the Council’s budget”
I suspect that the answer is “don’t know” – in which case, how can he be sure that he’s making a sound financial decision. This is public money – surely he must know the answer to this question, and not guess it, before a proposal is made. Does he really understand the consequences of these cuts?