Headlines: March 23rd, 2007



The finance scheme for the third sector launched in 2004 has been slow to get off the ground. The scheme is operated by Futurebuilders England Ltd which is a consortium of Charity Bank, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Northern Rock Foundation and Unity Trust Bank. The Futurebuilders Advisory Panel set up by the Cabinet Office in 2005 to provide advice to ministers believes that the grant culture of the third sector and the commissioning culture of the public sector are at the root of the slow progress.

The Panel believes that the level of take-up of Futurebuilders in some areas is due to the complexities of changing from an ethos of grants to a culture that is more accepting of loans-based finance. There is also criticism of Futurebuilder Ltd for failing to focus on changing commissioning and procurement practices.

Richard Kemp, deputy chair of the Local Government Association, has challenged every Council, Primary Care Trust, College, University and Government Quango to build a social enterprise challenge into all their procurement and service specification activities and then appoint a champion within their organisation to back them. He said: “I simply cannot understand how much of public sector procurement is still silo based and predicated on an outdated belief that the two choices available to us are, ‘in house’ or privatised. The best of the public sector has begun to realise that there can be public and third sector options as well as public and private options.”

The Advisory Panel report shows that since 2004, 85 million pounds of investment has been made in over 195 organisations. The range of organisations includes charities, social enterprises, community interest companies, voluntary groups and community organisations. Investment packages have been offered to organizations to help them to deliver services related to children and young people, community cohesion, crime, health, and education and learning.

The Advisory Panel recommended that Futurebuilders funding should be continued into a second phase to run from 2008-2011 to help unlock the third sector’s potential.