Baffling U-turn will not silence the voices
When Liam Byrne announced the launch of the Campaigning Research Programme in April it sounded like a bold move.
Here was as Government, which seemed to be willing to say, “we don’t know everything, and society needs someone to speak up for those that slip beneath our radar”.
To actively fund charities and support them in their fight to make changes in society showed that we have a mature, pluralistic democracy with space for all of the different voices that make our society.
The £750,000 scheme was rolled out and the minister announced: “In the times of rapid economic change, government needs to hear from organisations who are working hard to bring about positive changes in our communities."
The recent cancellation of this fund, as announced by the new OTS minister Angela Smith, presumably shows that the government no longer needs to hear from these organisations.
The fact that 32 organisations had been offered shares of this cash only to see the funding promise revoked, makes the U–turn even harder to understand.
As Oliver Henman points out in his blog, the damage to these organisations is likely to be severe and so the net result will be worse than if the programme had not initially been launched.
In order to show how much damage this reversal will cause it's important that any organisation that has been impacted by this cancellation gets in touch with Stuart Etherington our CEO.
With a general election fast approaching and with the Conservatives claiming that they want to hand more power to the sector this even seems like a strange move politically.
I have to point out that these are my views and not NCVO’s.
Of course the election result is not a foregone conclusion and although the sector is politically neutral, the public spending cuts and general ethos of the Conservative party would usually provide fertile ground for campaigning organisations.
It seems strange the Labour Party should be trying to silence the voices that maybe supporting it in opposition.
Campaigning will continue to exist whatever happens with this funding and the voluntary sector will continue to represent those with the quietest voices.
History has shown that eventually, those voices will be heard.
NCVO's online campaigning resource Louder has set up an online petition.
We’ll keep you updated through the website and Twitter.
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Maurice Mcleod, editor of Engage magazine, discusses news and views from the whole of civil society.