I fear this has been the week when I have come to fully appreciate the impact of the cuts, which has been a dominant theme of meetings this week.
The 14-19 Partnership Board had a briefing on the impact of cuts and funding uncertainties in that sector. Whilst the concentration nationally has been on the increase in student fees, little attention has been given to the cutting of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to college students, and its substitution with a new grant, but the published figures show a cut in the EMA from £700m to £70m. This will be a severe disincentive to young people from needy families to go to college. The changes in the Education White Paper are also very significant.
Locally, Surrey CC has reviewed its funding support to voluntary sector support service organizations, and whilst it is very commendably protecting core funding in 2011/12, at the expense of the loss of its own staff, all current grant recipients are on notice of a 30-35% cut in 2012. We have just prepared our budget for 2011/12, and will have to draw heavily on reserves, but 2012 looks grim. However at least there is a year to plan, and the words “collaboration and/or merger “ are on everyone’s lips (or should be!).
On a more positive note, we are making good progress with Surrey CC colleagues in initiating a social impact bond (see website) and I am delighted that two Surrey CC staff are to be seconded to us on a part –time basis from January to March. If we are all to get out of the predicament of cuts in the public and voluntary sectors, low economic growth, and social disruption it will be through innovation and effective collaboration between the three sectors (public, private and voluntary).
We are updating our Doyouthwork.com website to facilitate links to corporates especially about volunteering opportunities for their staff; this is to be re-launched at the end of January. I am also hoping that the two seconded staff can help us to develop our “surrey youth enterprises” site.
Another important Big Society development this week is the publication of the new Localism Bill, which includes very significant devolution of powers to local communities about planning matters and transfer of assets (buildings) to communities.
And finally ….you will want to know from last week’s blog about my experience of eating sheep’s testicles (sic) at a Turkish restaurant…”tastes just like chicken” !
Mince pies, mulled wine and first carol concert this week-end…much safer!