A local perspective on the spending cuts

By John Copps 8 December 2010

Of all the spending cuts announced back in October, by far the most significant for charities are those to local councils.

It’s easy to forget this from the vantage point of the capital, where everyone gets excited by when the Minister does this and when the Minister does that. But the front-line of voluntary action is in villages, towns and cities, well away from the centre of power.

My local council is Greenwich, south-east London. They’ve just unveiled proposals for the first tranche of budget cuts (£21m, as part of a total of £65m over the next three years).

Charities don’t come off particularly well. Proposals include savings in day care for older people, mother and toddler groups, and a cut of £162,000 in small grants for voluntary organisations. This doesn’t sound like a lot when many of us have got used to hearing about billions of pounds but it is a big chunk, and is likely to be repeated over the next three years.

An extract listing some of those who lose out is opposite. None of these charities are brand names, but their demise will be a blow to those who depend on them.

On the flipside, there will be opportunities. Greenwich proposes to transfer youth services out of the council, and will look to find a delivery partner. But the scale of the job means that it will only be the large charities, such as Barnardo’s and Action for Children whose ears will be twitching.

So on the face of it, small charities lose out and some big charities may actually be better off. Or perhaps there a happy medium? Instead of expanding their own order books, it could be a chance for the big charities to work more closely with local groups. Take the example of large homelessness charity Thames Reach and a tiny charity that works with Irish travellers in nearby Lewisham as a case in point. Then we could have the benefit of both.