VSF news flash following the London Councils Grants Committee met on 14th July.
The Voluntary Secor Forum has represented London Councils funded organisations for the past 20 years:
The New London Councils’ Grants Committee has 20 new members. The committee is dominated by Labour, with 18 seats. The new chair of the committee is Mayor Sir Steve Bullock (Lewisham). There are 3 vice chairs Cllr Helal Abbas (Labour, Tower Hamets), Cllr Stephen Carr (Conservative, Bromley) and Cllr Penny Shelton (Liberal Democrat, Kingston upon Thames).
The Grants Committee discussed the ‘Review of the future role and scope of the London Boroughs Grants Scheme’ at some length and want a report in November and decisions to be made on the future of the scheme by December.
They made a recommendation to the Leaders’ Committee to proceed with the review following the scope and timetable outlined in the paper that was presented to it by London Councils’ officers.
Grants committee want more information from London Councils’ officers on the periods under which the current commissions will end, legal advice as to what is and what isn’t possible (with regard to ending commissions) and the possible implications.
The committee agreed that a very substantial part of the budget would be ‘repatriated’ to boroughs, they discussed the potential for sub-regional money to also be ‘repatriated’ and to be distributed as groupings of boroughs saw fit.
This would leave a residual pot for truly pan-London commissions. We do not know at this stage what those truly pan-London services might be. There is no guarantee that any of the money will be spent on the VCS locally.
It was agreed to do some further work on the future of the Strategic Monitoring Zone groupings. A recommendation was made by officers to reduce the number of SMZs from 10 to 6.
The committee agreed that they cannot guarantee that any commissions will be continued past 31st March 2011.They therefore agreed to send a letter to all funded organisations to that effect. It may be that all current commissions will be cut at the end of March 2011 but it may be that they will continue after that until the end of the current arrangements.
This for VSF and VSF members is the ‘worst case scenario’. It may of course end up being better for members with the programme being wound down over a longer period of time, time in which we can all plan for the future. There seems to be still a great deal of uncertainty not least of which is the very difficult funding environment away from London Councils.
The impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review and Local Government Settlement (expected in October) is also a key factor.
What appears certain however is that the London Councils grants budget will be very much smaller when the new commissioning round begins (in 2011, with the majority to begin in 2012).
We are unsure as to what, if any, the impact of potential cuts might be before then.
Councillors did make reference during the meeting to ‘we need to work with our valued VCS partners’ and there will be consultation with the sector – we don’t know when that consultation will be.
That will be our opportunity to feed in our views and evidence of the impact of our services on beneficiaries in London. It will also be important for us to demonstrate why we think it is essential that some services are commissioned regionally or sub-regionally.
There will be a fundamental change in the London Boroughs Grants Scheme and we should not assume that any of our commissions are guaranteed post March 31st 2011.
As a result and to minimise the risk to our organisations we should be making contingency plans.
Start making plans based on the assumption that none of us are guaranteed funding beyond March 31st 2011 – it may never happen but best to be prepared!
Yours in solidarity
What you can do straight away
Contact VSF with your concerns, evidence of the impact of your work – firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact VSF with reasons, supported by evidence, why your work must be commissioned regionally or cross-borough – email@example.com
Contact Grants and Leaders’ committee with your concerns (lists on the VSF website)
On 20th July, the Voluntary Sector Forum issed a letter to local Councillors highlighting how they would like to work together to address concerns and find solutions following the decision to go ahead with the review of the future role and scope of the London Boroughs Grants Scheme:
Dear London Councils Leaders and Grants Committee members:
Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF) is the network of all London Councils’ commissioned voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations. VSF was first funded in 1986 and together VSF and London Councils have built a strong mutually beneficial working relationship over the years.
This letter highlights how we would like to work with you to address concerns and find solutions following your decision to go ahead with the review of the future role and scope of the London Boroughs Grants Scheme.
VSF can provide you with:
• Access to communities across London
• High quality, good value, expert, innovative services evidenced by need
• Ways to promote good relations within and between communities
• Expertise and knowledge that will inform your decision-making
Rationale for ‘repatriation’: We would like to work with you to come to a clear rationale about London’s local authorities ‘repatriation’ of a substantial part of the London Boroughs Grants Scheme so that we understand better your position.
Guarantee: We would like to work with you to develop a robust mechanism to ensure reallocated funds to local authorities are spent on commissioning VCS services locally. Currently no such ring fencing exists and we strongly believe that continued support to the VCS is your intention.
Trust: We want to provide you with the best information possible to ensure that you know what we are currently achieving. If you are not getting what you need tell us! We will ensure that you get the information you need, we will arrange visits to funded programmes, we want to support groups to provide data that best reflects the benefits and impact of their work so that you get the information that you need.
Decision-making: With only 4 of the new Grants Committee members being able to attend the New Members Induction session on 14th July we would like to be sure that new members have the opportunity to be well informed about the history of the Grants Scheme and the work that London Councils is currently commissioning. Would you like us to arrange a seminar, possibly in the evening if that suits your timetable?
Transparent decision-making: We want to work with you to demonstrate that the decision making process is transparent, open to scrutiny, and supported by evidence. We believe it is essential to make public the lists of groups that officers have already drawn up categorising services that can be commissioned locally, sub-regionally and regionally, as this will assist transparent decision-making.
Valued partners: During the committee meeting several members talked about the VCS as valued partners. We look forward to you working with us as trusted and equal partners through this process of change in ways that support you in the challenging times that lie ahead.
Consultation: We would like to be consulted as soon as possible over the proposals for change including the reallocation of funding to local authorities. We would be glad to work with you on the consultation process which will set a timeframe to enable the VCS to make informed future plans.
There is considerable stress in the sector due to the environment of cuts. There is anxiety related to planning for future services and meeting the needs of our beneficiaries in an uncertain environment, the possibility of making redundancies and closing organisations is very real for many groups.
Compact: We would like to work with you in accordance with the principles of the Compact. If there is consideration being given to altering all current commissions on March 31st 2011 then in order to be compliant we need to know with at the very least three months notice.
Equality Impact Assessments: The VCS has particular expertise in this area. You are required to assess the impact that cuts to the London Borough Grants Scheme will have on women, BAME people and disabled people. By April 2011 you will still be regarded as having a duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and promote good relations for all groups with protected characteristics, which will include older people, LGBT people and religious people and those of other beliefs as well as those groups currently protected.
We want to work with you to protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged: We are sure that you do not want to disadvantage further those who already experience the highest levels of deprivation and experience the greatest barriers to accessing services.
We would like to work with you to give clarity in relation to the review, and make decisions informed by the consultation.
Sam Mauger, Co-Chair Voluntary Sector Forum