The UK government has been warned that it is falling behind other countries by delaying the publication of transparent and comparable information about which organisations receive government grants.
Data about where government grants go is published annually, but is not formatted in a way that makes it easy to tell how much charities, or indeed any other sector, has received. Nearly two years ago the government indicated that it intended to move to a standardised format, developed by 360Giving.
In October 2017 the data for two departments was published using the 360Giving data standard, with the expectation that other departments would follow in the future. In March 2019 the 360Giving standard was formally adopted by the government.
The Government Grant Register has previously been published annually in the autumn, but the government plans to wait until March next year to improve the accuracy and completeness of the data.
9.3 per cent of grants went to charity last year
Around 9 per cent of government grants in 2017/18 went to charities, but the destination of 12 per cent was impossible to work out, according to new analysis of last year’s data by 360Giving.
In a blog, published yesterday, David Kane from 360Giving, wrote: “Grants from government are a crucial part of the voluntary sector’s funding mix – but surprisingly, it’s very difficult to find out how much these grants are worth or where they go.”
360Giving has estimated that 9.3 per cent of last year’s government grants went to charities, which amounted to 3.5 per cent of the total amount awarded.
Universities accounted for nearly 40 per cent of recipients, followed by local authorities (26.7 per cent). Companies received 7.5 per cent of grants, with this amounting to 10.5 per cent of total amount awarded.
But for 12.6 per cent of recipients, and 13.6 per cent of the total amount awarded, 360Giving was unable to work out what kind of organisation received the money.
‘Disappointed by the delay’
Will Perrin, founder and trustee of 360Giving, told Civil Society News he was disappointed by how slow progress has been.
He said: “For obvious reasons it's important that any government is transparent about where its money goes. A grant is an award of money for which services are not received and the potential for misunderstanding or, worse, abuse, is clear.
“The USA and Canada for example make grant information readily available as open data for comparison and clarity. The UK government has adopted 360Giving as its standard for open grants data but is taking forever to publish it. I can't understand what the delay is.”
Data will be published in March
When asked about the delay, a government spokesperson said: "We are committed to improving the quality of the data published in the Government Grants Register. Therefore, we plan to publish FY18/19 data in March 2020 so that we can make use of department's published and audited accounts."