Charities ‘hit by funding cuts’
More than 2,000 charities across England have had their funding cut or withdrawn altogether by local councils, according to research by the TUC. An anti-cuts campaign produced the findings from more than 250 responses to Freedom of Information requests.
The cuts total more than £10m in the past year, but the final figure could be far higher, their report claimed. The government said any councils not recognising the importance of the voluntary sector were “short-sighted”. A quarter of all charities receive funding from the state and for some groups – such as employment and training organisations – it can make up the bulk of their income.
Research for the False Economy website – a resource hub for the anti-cuts movement supported by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) – found it was charities related to children and young people that were most affected, with more than 200 receiving cuts in funding. Birmingham was the council that had made the biggest number of cuts, although it is the largest local authority in the UK. In the past year the cuts have totalled over £10m, but the final figure is likely to be as much as £100m because some authorities have not yet finalised their plans, said the report.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the figures showed that the idea charities can replace direct services currently provided by central or local government was false.
“It sounds great, but in practice the Big Society is looking more and more like a big con,” he said.
In response to the report, the government said although councils had “challenging decisions” to make around how they prioritise spending, they must resist passing on “disproportionate” savings to the voluntary sector.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “In their approach to budget setting, the best councils are showing that they understand that a strong, thriving voluntary sector is more important now than ever and could be the key to providing high quality, good value services to their residents. But this is not the case everywhere.
“Councils that are failing to recognise the importance of the sector are being short-sighted in their approach.”
The scale of these cuts as reported by the TUC, are however grossly underestimated according to NCVO. NCVO head of research Karl Wilding questioned the figure on Twitter, saying: “Sadly I think today’s TUC / False Economy research woefully under-reports impact of cuts on charities.”
He later added: “it’s based on returns to an FOI request only – it’s not then extrapolated for the country, plus its only local govt.”
Speaking to CivilSociety.co.uk, NCVO policy manager James Allen said: “I think in terms of the research it’s an interesting snapshot of what’s going on, as it’s actually very hard to quantify what the overall impact of cuts is without speaking to every charity that’s in receipt of funding and every local authority as well.
“But the figure we’re comfortable with is more like £750m this year.”
Next week NCVO intends to release comprehensive research estimating the scale of the cuts via the use of government statistics and by taking on board a range of other factors, so keep an eye out for that.
The research will indicate that across the five years of this spending review, the sector is facing cuts in the region of £2bn.