Share

Most government departments won't publish data on sector funding

Simon Blake, chair of Compact Voice
News

Most government departments won't publish data on sector funding1

Finance | Tania Mason | 1 Nov 2012

Most central government departments will not publish full information about levels of funding to the voluntary sector so it is impossible to track whether they are making disproportionate cuts or adhering to Compact principles, Compact Voice has discovered.

In the summer, Compact Voice sent Freedom of Information requests to 15 central government departments asking them to report levels of funding to the sector, recent changes to this funding, engagement with the sector through consultations and whether they assess the impact on voluntary groups of changes to funding.

The watchdog body wanted to find out how the departments were implementing the principles of the Compact, following the publication of the shorter revised document in December 2010. It hoped the responses would provide a consistent data set that would enable comparisons between departments.

But the responses from the departments were highly unsatisfactory, according to Compact Voice.

Of the 15 departments targeted, responses were received from 12. The three that did not bother to reply were the Department of Education, the Government Equalities Office and the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Of those that did respond, just seven provided direct answers to the questions submitted. They were:

  • Cabinet Office
  • Communities and Local Government
  • Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Department of Work and Pensions
  • Department of Health
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice

However, their responses ranged from full replies to just one or two specific answers. The most comprehensive responses came from CLG and the Department of Health.

Five departments refused to answer at least some of the questions because of the cost of compiling the data; among them was HM Treasury.

The Compact Voice report detailing the research said the lack of data provided meant Compact Voice was unable to make any comparisons between departments or assess whether commitments made under the Compact are being met.

This made it impossible for departments to prove that they are not cutting sector budgets disproportionately. If the government cannot even evaluate its own progress then civil society and ordinary citizens cannot hold it to account, the report said.

The project also highlighted issues with the government’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. “It is worrying that departments are not even replying to requests, with other requests responded to late. Further, when information is held and signposted to in answer to FoI requests, it is often difficult or impossible to interpret,” said the report.

The report contains several recommendations of ways in which the government can better report on its interactions with the voluntary sector.

Compact Voice chair: a wake-up call for all of us

Compact Voice chair Simon Blake said: “Government has repeatedly committed to accountability and transparency with the sector which I welcome. But to achieve this, the data requested must be recorded. We expected some variation across government, but this report is a wake-up call for all of us and shows there is clearly lot to do.”

Compact Voice provided Cabinet Office response

The press release issued by Compact Voice came complete with a response from the Cabinet Office. This said: “The government views the Compact with high importance. The Compact was specifically cited as one of only six cross-cutting Whitehall priorities in all departmental business plans, against which government reports on annually in a public and transparent way. It was specifically cited in recent government guidance on consultation.

“Every central government department is now required to publish spend to the voluntary and community sector within their business plans. This is the first time government has done this which demonstrates our commitment to transparency in this area. We are committed to making data available and Cabinet Office is happy to work with Compact Voice on this agenda going forward.”

Jay Kennedy
Head of Policy
Directory of Social Change
8 Nov 2012

In other news, 'local man surprised to find that balls roll downhill, the sky is blue, and he gets wet outside in the rain'.

The lack of comprehensive information about Government spending on the voluntary sector has been recognised as a problem for at least ten years - and was supposed to be a Government priority for voluntary sector policy going all the way back to the 2002 Cross Cutting Review (remember that, anyone?). The picture since that time has become steadily muddier, not clearer.

The relevant recommendations in that review were quite sound, but were over time shelved, watered down, forgotten. The Government quite simply has no idea how much money it puts into the voluntary sector, and has over time dismantled its limited and imperfect initial attempts to find out. Instead it relies on the sector's own best estimates! And it is next to impossible to get comprehensive information about local spend, which is so key to understanding the impact.

Keep up the pressure Compact Voice, and don't let them forget that this is a problem where progress has been in reverse - they need to do far more than issue press releases citing good intentions and business plans.

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

Charities 'must continue to fight for the right to influence policy'

20 Oct 2014

Civil society organisations must not give up the fight to influence policy and governments, the international...

Islamic Relief Worldwide income falls by £18m

20 Oct 2014

Islamic Relief Worldwide has seen its income drop from £100m in 2012 to £82m in 2013, according to...

Charity criticised after refusing to pay Ashya King’s parents' legal fees

17 Oct 2014

Kids 'n' Cancer UK has been criticised for saying it will not pay the legal fees of the family of Ashya...

Voluntary sector sees “revolving door” of staff, says report

20 Oct 2014

The voluntary sector is experiencing a “revolving door” of staff with employee turnover levels at...

Charities 'must continue to fight for the right to influence policy'

20 Oct 2014

Civil society organisations must not give up the fight to influence policy and governments, the international...

Paul Farmer appointed chair of Acevo

17 Oct 2014

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, has been appointed the chair of the Association of Chief Executives...

Blackbaud launches online giving platform for individual fundraisers

17 Oct 2014

Blackbaud has launched its online giving platform, everydayhero, for fundraisers in the UK in a bid to...

Don't dismiss social media 'slacktivists', fundraisers told at IFC

16 Oct 2014

Charities should embrace and love charity ‘slacktivists’ because social is a great ramp for new donors,...

Nesta has made no grants to charities from its Impact Investments Fund

16 Oct 2014

Only 15 per cent of applications to a Nesta fund to invest in innovations to help older people, children...

Join the discussion

 Twitter button

@CSFinance