At the risk of sounding like a South London gangster there isn’t enough respect around. I’m not talking about queue jumping here but the way some local councils treat voluntary organisations. At Compact Advocacy we speak to people on a daily basis who have to bear the brunt of councils’ budget cuts and poor decision making. We see it all; hasty decisions behind closed doors, reviews based on flawed data, demands for money to be paid back, retrospective Equality Impact Assessments and refusals to communicate.

I don’t think we are unreasonable in our demands. We know there will be cuts; we know some will hit the voluntary sector. We know some organisations will go under, while others will shrink significantly. We accept the good times are over and that we have to share the pain. All that the Compact demands are that decisions are taken the right way, that processes are fair and transparent and that agreed rules are followed. Sometimes this happens, but often we see a blatant lack of respect for organisations that have worked hard for many years, and all of a sudden are left out in the cold.
How about the case where after several years of monitoring meetings where no concerns are raised and no questions asked, all of a sudden the council is withholding payment due to poor performance? Or the review that measured widely differing organisation who deliver different services, to each other, not taking into account that a “session” with one is hugely different from a “session” with another? Would the same council compare the cost of a private company collecting rubbish with one running a leisure centre? Probably not.
Or take the Council that gives less than two months’ notice to a small rent paying community group to evict the premises they’ve used for many years, because of “the difficult financial times”. Is this what Cameron and friends had in mind when they decided to cut the area-based grants? That the groups who already deliver a Big Society are evicted, given notice, short changed and messed around by councils who have forgotten how to show respect. Doesn’t sound very Big Society to me...
It’s not impossible to take difficult decisions in a fair, transparent and respectful way, but many councils seem to have forgotten how. At the Compact team we are as interested in the good examples as the bad, so keep them coming!

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