A landmark judgement in the High Court will make it more difficult
in future for local authorities to cut funding to the voluntary
sector. The judge said Leicester Council had made a “very serious
error” in slashing financial support without proper consultation.
The reason that this is such a remarkable judgement is that the
voluntary sector has for years been the escape valve for local
authority budget pressures. Whatever went wrong in Leicester, “when
in doubt cut the voluntary sector out” appears to have been the
unofficial rule of thumb at many local authorities.
It is a rule that must be abolished. If the voluntary sector is to
be more prominent in the planning, commissioning and delivery of
services, as the government has promised, then cavalier attitudes
to its funding should become a thing of the past.
Local compacts between the two sectors should have begun to improve
matters. Voluntary groups will increasingly expect to come to the
table as equals, not as supplicants. By April next year compacts
should be in place everywhere and it is to be hoped changed
attitudes will be as well.