Best Value and Cuts to Community and Voluntary Organisations

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2011 National LGBT Conference
23 September 2011

Conference notes that in August 2011, False Economy revealed that more than 2,000 charities and community groups were facing budget cuts due to local authority reductions in funding, following responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

These included vital services for LGBT people, women survivors of domestic abuse, vulnerable children and homelessness services. More than 150 disability charities were due to have funding reduced, as well as over 100 adult social care charities.

Conference notes that as a result of the cuts, some charities have been forced to make redundancies. Some of the workers facing redundancy or who have lost their jobs will be UNISON members.

Conference further notes that the loss or reduction of vital services provided by the community and voluntary sector may put additional pressure on over-stretched and under-funded local authorities. The impact on service users – many who may be our members including disabled LGBT people, who often rely on such services for support, education, advice and networking – will be devastating.

Conference is disappointed that Best Value guidance for local authorities was only issued in September 2011, after many statutory and community and voluntary services had already suffered funding withdrawal or reduction. The guidance states that local councils have been freed from excessive and prescriptive guidance and duties in return for ‘social responsibility’. They are asked to continue to give support to local voluntary and community groups and small businesses. The guidance informs local authorities that they are under a duty to consult before deciding how to fulfil their best value duty but it is not necessary for them to undertake ‘lifestyle’ or diversity questionnaires of suppliers or residents.

The guidance tells local authorities not to pass on disproportionate reductions – by not passing on larger reductions to the voluntary and community sector and small businesses than they take on themselves. The only other requirements if the intention is to reduce or end funding or other support, is to give three months notice, actively engage the organisation and service users before making the decision and make provision for the organisation, service users and the wider community to put forward options on how to reshape the service or project.

Conference is concerned that this guidance is mere justification for making cuts, infers that equality impact assessments are not necessary and could lead to fewer user-led services.

Conference therefore calls on the National LGBT Committee to:

1.Discuss with relevant service group executives the potential impact of the best value guidance;

2.Request that relevant service group executives continue to raise with employers the importance of equality impact assessments;

3.Continue its campaign against the cuts to public and community and voluntary sector services and jobs;

4.Highlight the impact of the cuts on community and voluntary sector services, specifically those that provide services for LGBT members including disabled LGBT and Black LGBT members.