Latest on our spend and engagement research

rachel whartonBack in October 2013, Compact Voice initiated a piece of research into how local authorities engage with the voluntary sector, and how much they spend on it.

This blog provides a bit of background as to why we undertook the research and where our findings are leading us.

Firstly I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to assist us with this research. We worked hard to respond personally to the many emails we got about this work and apologies if we missed you, but we are very grateful to all the people who took the time to get back to us.   

A bit of context

Compact Voice had previously undertaken research into this area back in 2012 by issuing a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to every local authority in England, in order to get an idea of how local councils were working with their local voluntary and community sector (VCS).

A full report based on this exercise is available on Compact Voice’s website at www.compactvoice.org.uk/foi2012.

Gathering this data allowed us to understand how spending cuts are affecting local areas. It also encourages local authorities to be transparent with their spending data and related decisions, and can help us to work with local areas that need it most.

So what was different?

We decided to do the same piece of research in 2013. However, after listening carefully to feedback from our local contacts about last year’s research we decided that issuing requests was no longer the route we wanted to take – some areas found the approach too confrontational.

So instead, in late 2013 we contacted every Lead Councillor and council Chief Executive in England asking them to voluntarily provide us with information.

While we appreciate that monitoring levels of spend and engagement with the voluntary sector may not present a full picture of how councils work with their local VCS, it does provides us with a good indication of how funding and engagement occurs in the area.

The biggest difference between the research from 2012 and the work for 2013 is that Compact Voice wanted to work together with our partners in local areas and local authorities across England to gather this information - so this is why we made the responding to the requests voluntary.

We have also allowed a long period for areas to respond and tried our hardest to respond to individual enquiries in person.

In our original letter, we asked local authorities to get back to us within 28 days but we are still taking responses now and many local authorities have told us that the exercise, though it may have taken some time, has allowed them to see their funding and engagement with the VCS more clearly. 

What’s next?

Unlike the previous research, we will not be naming the local authorities that haven’t responded or listing those who seem to be cutting disproportionately.

We have begun to analyse the data that has been sent to us and we will produce a series of blogs over the coming months leading to a brief final report, detailing our main conclusions.

We will look to see how the landscape might have changed since last year, and highlight any emerging trends or anything of note that has arisen from the research.

We will be particularly looking at grant expenditure with the VCS, contracts with the VCS and Consultations with the VCS.

Compact Voice want to support initiatives which help develop new ways of partnership working with councils and we hope that by using the information that local authorities have shared with us, we can do this at a local level.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to get in touch with your local Engagement Development Officer, or contact me directly.  

 
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