Devolution and discussions about what it should look like and who will be involved is coming to a town near you. There are many things to consider here and each local authority is carrying out joint consultation, you can find this here. This also has links to many of the documents that set out the proposals. For further information follow these links:
If you only want to look at one, the County page probably has the most information and they have a logo!
We are not going to go into detail here about the proposals, but in short the plan is for there to be a new devolved tier of government covering Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and including the Local Enterprise Council (LEP). This new ‘authority’ will be made up of representatives of local councils and a newly elected mayor.
The authority will be given additional funding and the ability to develop policies and plans around issues such as transport, housing and skills. The government have promised significant additional investment and local councils across the area are keen to ensure that this is secured and spent to make identified improvements.
It is fair to say that the voluntary sector was not mentioned in any of the documents we have read, but if you know differently please tell us. That said the proposed powers could impact on the work of the sector. There will be extra money for affordable housing, so how will Housing Associations fit with this? There will also be changes to post 19 skills funding and to employment support and this is an area in which the sector does provide some innovative and essential services. Whilst there may be new money, there will also be resources from existing government funding that has been redirected to be spent more locally. This could see reductions in existing funding pots as new processes are developed. It is also unlikely that each statutory authority covered will also want to continue with their funding in certain areas and this may see them placing funds and decision making into the new body. These changes could impact funding streams accessed by the VCS. At this stage it is impossible to predict but there is likely to be some impact across the sector.
So what are the views of CCVS?
- We welcome additional investment into the county and are keen to ensure that voluntary groups are able to access this where they are most suited to deliver the required outcomes.
- We are concerned that this will add a further layer of bureaucracy to local government and that this will have an adverse impact on how the voice of the voluntary sector and those they work with is heard.
- We believe that there is a danger that funding, opportunities and projects that currently exist in those areas where the sector work will rolled into the new structure and that this may result in loss of services on the ground.
- We ask that thought is given as to how the sector is enabled to engage with the new structures. A cabinet minister or champion for communities and the voluntary sector could be a way forward, especially if they were accessible and plugged into existing VCS networks.
Further, we do not want to see the new structures acting as a further catalyst in the move from grants to contacts, or for it to add to the trend towards large contracts that the sector is unable to engage with. Grants are important and need to be made available at different levels to support different organisations and different delivery options. There has been a worrying trend in the reduction of grant funding for the sector and this disproportionately impacts the small organisations that are essential for community resilience.
Although things are improving, we still see a great deal of silo working and a lack of co-ordination from statutory partners. We worry that a new layer of government may add to this and we want to see assurances that the new structures are designed to facilitate a much more joined up response to the issues affecting communities and individuals.
CCVS wants to work with existing and future partners to ensure the best deal for the local voluntary sector. We believe that the sector is best placed to deliver and supplement many local services and that the impact it has is often underestimated or hidden. Whilst business investment and economic growth are important this can not happen without strong, equal and fair communities and it is of vital importance that the work that sector does in highlighting and resolving issues is recognised by any new mayor or cabinet. We want to see a commitment to a fair and equal society and a reduction in the gaps between rich and poor, and we want to see resources being committed for the long term to allow communities and the voluntary organisations that serve them to develop their own sustainable solutions.