Open Forum

The appointment of John Stoker as voluntary sector compact commissioner to improve relationships with the government is welcome.

A recent report from my association highlighted just how bad things are – at least in some places. While local authorities and NHS trusts are pleading for regulation with a lighter touch for themselves, they continue to impose disproportionate and often
bizarre requirements on small local voluntary groups that are trying to provide desperately needed services.

Our study found several examples of bad practice by local statutory bodies. One group, a community transport project, had to spend four-and-ahalf days’ staff time each quarter submitting photocopies of receipts and other proof of expenditure to claim a grant of £4,400.

Then there is Impact Initiatives, which provides care services in Sussex on contract to primary care trusts, local authorities and other statutory bodies. A range of clients is a good thing – but the downside was that it was audited eight times in six weeks by funding agencies that failed to co-ordinate their demands. Once, the processing of a £20,000 grant was delayed while a £20 travel claim was investigated. With another of Impact’s contracts, all paperwork had to be submitted within five days of contract
end – yet the sign-off payment from the funder was still awaited 15 months later!

Last year the Better Regulation Task Force called for a lower burden of regulation on voluntary and community sector (VCS) groups, enabling them to act with creativity and innovation. It is now two years since Sir Peter Gershon’s efficiency review recommended that the VCS should be subject to a streamlined and rationalised monitoring, regulatory and reporting  requirement.

Let us hope that not too many VCS groups die waiting for the recommendations to be implemented.

● For Good Measure is available from the NAVCA website, 

Kevin Curley is chief executive of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action

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