Councils must not cut charity budgets

By Adam Fleming BBC News Political Correspondent

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
 Mr Pickles indicated he could take action against councils which overly penalise charities


Eric Pickles has said he is considering using the law to prevent local authorities passing on “disproportionate” cuts to charities.

The Communities Secretary told voluntary groups they were entitled to expect that cuts to their grants would not be proportionally bigger than cuts to local authority budgets overall.

Charities have said cuts in the public funding they receive endanger David Cameron’s Big Society agenda.

Councils face 28% cuts over four years.

Mr Pickles told he National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) conference that local groups have a reasonable expectation that cuts to their grants would not be proportionally bigger than cuts to local authority budgets overall and that charities should have three months notice of any changes.

‘Limits to localism’

This might involve amending the Localism Bill which is going through Parliament, although it is unlikely to become law before local authorities agree their budgets for 2011/12.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said such a move could encourage charities to seek a judicial review if they felt they had received a raw deal from a local authority.

He said it “changed the rules of engagement” and showed that there were “limits to localism”.

“We have reasonable expectations of how local authorities will conduct themselves,” Mr Pickles said.

“First it is reasonable to expect that councils will not pass on disproportionate cuts to local voluntary and community groups. That they will not inflict bigger reductions to your budgets than they take themselves.

“So if councils are being high-handed – I’ll consider giving our reasonable expectations statutory force.”

A source at the Communities Department said that it was a warning to councils that their decisions over the next few weeks would be scrutinised.

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