The government’s failure to release details of aid cuts has left charities “scrambling” to protect their services, a committee of MPs has been told.
Dozens of charities have raised concerns with parliament’s International Development Committee about the way funding cuts have been handled, with one describing the government’s approach as “a car crash”.
The criticism is contained in written evidence submitted to the committee’s ongoing inquiry into the future of aid. The submissions were published earlier this month.
Bond, the umbrella body for aid charities, has estimated that the government is cutting aid spending by more than £2.5bn this year, a move condemned as “devastating” by leading charities.
‘Little clarity, no transparency’
Action Aid, which received a little over £1m in government grants last year, said that in some cases the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) gave the charity less than a day’s notice that programmes would lose funding.
Action Aid told MPs: “Information about cuts to specific programmes has been communicated by FCDO in a piecemeal manner, at very short notice – sometimes less than 24 hours – and without prior consultation.
“Decisions were communicated with little clarity, no transparency on budget allocations, and little or no time for forward planning, leaving many projects and grassroots organisations with a great sense of uncertainty, scrambling to rebuild vital programmes on a fraction of the initially agreed funding.
“Medium- to long-term interventions yield the greatest impact and value for money, [and] they also require the most planning. It is difficult to plan longer term when part of a project has been cut, leading to wider ramifications for all involved.”
‘Poor and erratic’
In its submission to MPs, Plan International UK described the government’s approach to implementing the aid cuts as “mismanaged and chaotic”.
The charity said: “There has been poor and erratic communication and extremely short timescales for implementation of requests and decisions.
“It has shown a lack of respect to programme participants, communities and partners at all levels, and is making planning extremely difficult with high levels of uncertainty.”
They said that the funding cuts showed “little consideration or assessment of what impact they will have on programme participants, let alone the UK’s reputation and credibility with partners”, adding that “a ‘car crash’ or a ‘complete mess’ are accepted descriptors used by all involved”.
The charity Results UK said that “decisions about the aid cuts were entirely opaque”.
In its evidence, Concern Worldwide UK suggested that the government had prioritised plans for publicly announcing cuts over transparent communication with partners.
The charity said: “Decisions seem to have been made to withhold announcements so they could all land together, rather than announce decisions in a progressive manner which would have mitigated the impact on programmes and target populations.”
In other evidence sent to the committee, the FCDO was accused of advising charities to cut costs by sacking overseas staff without redundancy payments, an allegation the government denies.
Charities also warned MPs that grassroots work to alleviate the impact of global warning was being undermined by the FCDO’s large fossil fuel investments.