Standing up for the Voluntary Sector

I went to a meeting convened by Havco (Haringey Association of Voluntary and Community Organisations) and Haringey’s Community Link Forum (HCLF) last week. The meeting was set up for to consider 1) the development of a Voluntary Sector position paper to go to Haringey Council cabinet meeting and 2) begin to examine the changes that may need to be made by the sector to ensure that it can operate effectively within the new working environment..

Obviously there are cuts by central Government to local government – so let’s accept that this is straight fact – and concentrate then on how those cuts are going to translate on the ground in Haringey. From the £6.2 billion of emergency budget cuts – that knocks on to Haringey at around £3.2 million. Alongside the reductions in grant – there is the removal of ring-fencing, ending of national indicators and cessation of the Comprehensive Area Assessment – basically the central government strictures on local authorities as to how they spend their money or where they remove it from – have been removed.

So – it’s down to this Labour council in Haringey as to where these cuts will be made!

I went to the meeting of the Voluntary Sector because knowing Haringey – and I do know Haringey – they will be looking for soft targets and they will see the Voluntary Sector as a soft target. They won’t want to really do the hard stuff. It is so much easier to cut off the grant at arm’s length where the effect isn’t near to you. So much harder to sack someone from the office you work in – where you see people everyday and would have to bear the anger of being faced with your actions. And I believe there are also quite a few eye watering salaries at the top of the Haringey tree which might bear some pruning too – and a long hard look at the management culture might not go amiss! And don’t even get me started on the wastage that exists………

So Haringey Labour, need to make these cuts very, very carefully – and not go for the soft options. 

But to get onto the main point – it is the Voluntary Sector in Haringey who reach people not reached by statutory services and who provide on value for money terms – definite bangs for bucks. The evening was organised to get the points in place to make the case to Haringey when their cabinet meets on the 13th (I think) – and it is a very strong case.

So here are some of the points they made – all reasons for Haringey to look more carefully at themselves before they lay a finger on the Voluntary Sector.

– they reach the unreachable

– their work is mainly and often the sort of work that protects those people who are the most vulnerable, and in terms of equality and the groups who have protected characteristics, making cuts in this sector will have a direct impact on equality.  

– the VS do a great deal of preventative work and therefore savings culled from the VS may actually cost the council more in the long term

– they are cheaper than statutory services

– they often attract matched funding

– their work often actually stops costs being passed to the statutory sector

There was a whole lot more but that will suffice for the moment. It makes the point that is critical. The Voluntary Sector needs to be supported as far as possible during the retrenchment rather than being an easy target for Haringey Council cuts.

And given that Haringey’s first reaction to the cuts (for example) was to stop free swimming for children and pensioners and blame it on the coalition – we can see which way they are likely to go. However, if you scratch the surface of that move, you will find that actually only a quarter of the cost of swimming was funded by central government – most of it was funded by Haringey.

As my colleague, Cllr Robert Gorrie, Leader of the LibDem group on Haringey Council said: “Simply blaming the government is a shallow and political approach to dealing with what will be the first of many challenging cuts as the government works to put public finances back in some sort of order.”

So – the VS will prepare their position paper for Haringey Council’s cabinet meeting. They finished with some very good points about understanding how these decisions were being made and how they should be communicated. As one woman said – the key point is transparency – maximum transparency – so we can all see how and why and by whom these decisions about cuts are being made. We need to know that they are fair.

Too right we do!

PS: For info – not a single Haringey Labour councillor turned up to the meeting whereas LibDem Cllr Gail Engert was there in her role as Shadow Communities member.

0 thoughts on “Standing up for the Voluntary Sector

  1. I sympathise with what you say, but there are some other points to consider. A large part of the VS now works entirely under contract to local or national govt, often delivering services far removed from what they were originally set up to do. The organisations are cheap because they use voluntary labour, but they also employ a lot of well-paid managers. Yet they are seldom properly scrutinised, because local councils especially know there’ll be political mayhem if they threaten the funding of such bodies.

  2. You suggest there will be straight cuts in such an accepting manner. Does this mean that you’ve fallen for the evangelical Thatcherite spin coming out of Downing Street?

    They want 40% cuts…. perhaps you should address this first before telling the council what to do.

    Do you remember this:

    “What I can tell you is any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: ‘Here are my plans’ and they involve frontline reductions, they’ll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again. After 13 years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn’t reach the frontline.”
    David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show, Sunday May 2nd 2010.

    Cameron and Osborne ARE cutting fronline services and you’re happy to swallow the spin on what dire straights we’re in. Let me make it quite clear, 40% CUTS ARE IDEOLOGICAL, UNNECESSARY AND EVEN THE MARKETS DON’T SEE MUCH CHANCE FOR GROWTH.

    You must act in the interests of the country which gave neither the LibDems nor the Tories a mandate for these life-destroying cuts. All information used to justify them is complete spin.

  3. Ms. Featherstone quoted her LibDem colleague as saying

    “Simply blaming the government is a shallow and political approach to dealing with what will be the first of many challenging cuts as the government works to put public finances back in some sort of order.”

    She then preceeds this with her usual pompous tactic of baiting, slandering and moaning about Harigngey Council, and as usual, (yawn) pre-empting the worst.

    Your Government has slashed Haringey’s budget- I agree entirely with Bob (above), perhaps you want to address this first with your fellow duped colleagues before you throw stones at the Council and deflect the attention from the very crux of the issue.
    Perhaps you could serve your constituents with a blog on what concerns them, rather than you??

    God knows there’s been plenty of comments on your Government’s recent budget or assessing disibilities over the past month, which you seem to have ignored.

  4. @Bob W: no, they don’t want 40% cuts, as Hammond has made clear today. Its beholden on government to plan for a variety of scenarios, and another banking crisis (as some watchers are saying is a significant risk if global public sector investment falls off too far and too quick) could well hit so hard that we would have to make 40% cuts in at least some depts of state. Like the Boy Scouts: be prepared!
    We just might be moving away from yah-boo politics, although Ed Ballsup is trying very hard to keep it going.

  5. @ Bob

    I stand and applaud you for your post. How quick the “mighty” forget what they said pre election but thankfully the elctorate do NOT forget!

  6. Getting tired of people making stuff up.

    Cameron and Osborne ARE cutting fronline services

    Citation needed.

    the spin on what dire straights we’re in

    Feel free to supply what evidence you have that suggests otherwise.

    God knows there’s been plenty of comments on your Government’s recent budget or assessing disibilities over the past month, which you seem to have ignored.

    An excellent way to deal with this sort of astroturfing.

  7. Lynne, you say ‘So – it’s down to this Labour council in Haringey as to where these cuts will be made!’
    Have you any idea how offensive it is to your constituents to be “exclamation-marked” by you over subjects which are hugely important to them and will impact massively on their lives?
    And what happened to accuracy? It is the Lib-Dem-Conservative Government which is making the cuts which Harringay will have to handle. The Conservative element of the Government is attacking the public sector and the welfare state because and the Lib-Dems are giving them cover.
    If you really cared about the voluntary sector you would defend it to your bosses.

  8. What I am saying is that there are cuts being made by central government – no disguising that – but it is Haringey Council will be deciding where those cuts are made locally. Having gone to the meeting about how the VS can best defend itself – I want to support their cause against a Council who will look for soft targets rather than deal with anything more difficult.

  9. You have no idea what the Council will do – councillors are hardly going to take you into their confidence. And using the word ‘targets’ is offensive – again! Also how can the council, with millions of pounds worth of cuts coming its way, avoid dealing with anything ‘difficult?’ In a few weeks time, difficult will be the new easy.
    Support the cause of the voluntary sector by opposing the scale of the Budget cuts. You may be mixing with fellow millionaires galore in Cabinet but there are thousands of people in your constituency who have little or nothing to fall back on.

  10. @ Helen

    Sadly, the word “offensive” can be attributed to many Lib Dems now!

  11. There you go again, making an angry statement about what you dare to presume the Council will or won’t do, instead of directing your energy to the source of this issue!!
    Was this because of how infamously wasteful the council under liberal stewardship?
    Your constant digs and gripes at the council make you sound like some bitter jilted ex-lover.

    I thought it was the new politics??- Or was that last month’s soundbite?

  12. As an avid reader of this blog, I can safely say this is the most audacious, puerile and hypocritical post yet. I’ve lost the will to even begin to address the ridiculousness of it. Whatever is said seems to falls on deaf ears; you just keep churning out the nonsense, regardless. People’s lives are affected by this stuff and you just play ever-sillier games. I despair.

  13. Is this blog another example of the “new politics” you wrote about after the election? You know, the one with no “jeering and negative point scoring”?

  14. Lynne

    This is so good that I just had to write and say how much I admire you for putting out such a brilliant spoof.

    It should be obvious to each of us now that the problems of the country have all been caused by Haringey Council and that the way to cure them is to revoke public services in their entirety and get volunteers to do the work. I mean why pay people to provide services in a professional manner (and if they are not being to seek to improve that service delivery)? We wouldn’t of course want our local MP to be looking to protect the jobs of the many people in her constituency who work in the public sector.

    And to think people say you are a dunderhead. So unfair!

  15. you say: “I believe there are also quite a few eye watering salaries at the top of the Haringey tree which might bear some pruning too” –

    Presumably not that eye-watering for you, though, as you are already a millionaire.

    Alongside most of the cabinet (–Lib-Dems-just-wealthy-Tories.html)

    So I don’t see how you are justified in attacking the salaries paid to public officials when you are yourself very rich. But I suppose that is all in the game for this vaguely fascistic government. State power to be wielded by the rich and powerful against the working class and the weak and vulnerable. I hope it makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

  16. PS It’s extremely patronising to talk in such concerned tones about how to cut the voluntary sector when you are a millionaire and a member of the government that has initiated those cuts.

  17. “I want to support their cause against a Council who will look for soft targets rather than deal with anything more difficult.” Says Lynne.

    Now where’s the conviction and consistency if we substitute Governement in place of Council:

    “I want to support the cause against a Govenrment who will look for soft targets (e.g. the poor, the disabled) rather than deal with anything more difficult (e.g. bankers).” But of course, Lynne didn’t say that!

  18. Well said Carl- spot on.

    It’s breathtaking how the banks have escaped any note of criticism on Lynne Featherstone’s blogs apart from the odd one liner.

    It seems she’s chosen her own soft target….the council; the body of which are public sector workers!

  19. The VS and social enterprises do provide a very good service and anything that can be done to recognise this I would be happy to support. As one of the organisations who are classed as a social enterprice we do provide value for money and watch their spending carefully.

  20. Lynne, in waving a cheery goodbye to free swimming for the young and the old in this post you say ‘actually only a quarter of the cost of swimming was funded by central government – most of it was funded by Haringey.’ So once again you are suggesting that everything is the fault of Haringey Council. Except it isn’t. With £60m of cuts over the next few years it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see that Haringey is going to struggle to make up the funding shortfall. Oh, and what about the Government which supplied the other three-quarters of the cost which has now been cut. That’s the Government of which you are a member. Seriously, do you think that people would have voted for you if you had put ‘allowing the removal of funding at a local and national level for free swimming for children and the over-60s’ on one of your never-ending stream of election leaflets?

  21. And now another £44 million of cuts to public swimming pools which would have helped them with refurbishment costs. Well done Lynne. Enjoy your next fabby swim session at, let me guess, The Laboratory (not a public swimming pool for anyone reading this who is not in the constituency and may be unaware of the simply divine range of expensive gyms and pools available to those with deep pockets) Don’t spare a thought for people who have been foolish enough not to have been born heirs to a large fortune. Health equalities? Another box you are leaving unticked….

  22. In other fabby news I hear today that my local library – in Lynne’s constituency (lucky, lucky me, I know) – is one of four under threat of closure. It’s that public sector cutback thingy that Lynne was telling us about the other week that dear David and gorgeous George persuaded her was so good and necessary for the plebs. So our children won’t be able to swim and soon they won’t be able to read. What’s next on the list Lynne? Sorry. You’ll have to speak a little louder. WE CAN’T HEAR YOU. And you are not listening to us.