voluntary and community sector
It seems all too easy and convenient for so many national politicians, senior civil servants and the media to dismiss local government as at best an irrelevance and often as a source of waste and blockage to growth and progress. This is wrong.
Being a charity trustee in the current political and economic environment does not always feel comfortable. There are many reasons for this. Large or small, local or national - charities are facing common problems of reduced income and, if they are charities concerned with social issues, often increased demand for their services
Of course, I accept that not all VCS organisations will survive and many others will, inevitably, be badly damaged as a result of a combination of public sector austerity, falling voluntary fund raising and increasing demand for their services.
I know that a few public sector bodies are developing collaborative alliances with the voluntary and community sector rather than simply contracting with it. However, in reality, the latter are in a small minority and the trend, sadly, is in the opposite direction.
Our aim is to give the sector a gentle kick up the pants. We all know the population will look different in 20 years time and we need to start thinking what that means for charities and their funders now.
The public service landscape is changing and fast - and not always in ways that the voluntary and community sector would wish to see. Some services are simply disappearing and others are being altered beyond recognition.
I have had many years' experience of as a trustee and have also been a senior executive in a major charity advising and supporting trustees. Whilst no two situations are the same, there are many general lessons that can be drawn from the collective experience across charities of various sizes and with varying missions.
The National Council of Voluntary Organisations recently estimated government cuts to the sector at £3.3bn by 2015. On top of this, a recent report has revealed that giving fell by 20% between 2010/11 and 2011/12, a loss of almost £2.3 billion in real terms.
The third sector should not simply accept what is happening to it and to its beneficiaries. It has to be strong and resolute in speaking out for social justice, equality and decency - the essence of the sector.
We need collaborators, and not castle builders.