Headlines: April 4th, 2007



The Government is to ask for bids to deliver the next phase of the Futurebuilders Fund, which provides investment for community and voluntary sector bodies which provide public services. The Cabinet Office, which houses the Office of the Thirds Sector, has announced it will tender for the second phase of programme to run from next year until 2011.

The delivery period for the initial phase, which has been run by Futurebuilders England Ltd under a tripartite agreement between it the Cabinet Office and Charity Bank, is entering its final year, but the Chancellor announced in his Budget last month that the Fund’s eligibility criteria will be expanded to allow a broader range of third sector organisations to benefit from it. That followed positive conclusions in the first progress report from the independent Futurebuilders Advisory Panel.

As a first step towards discussions on delivery of the next phase, the Office of the Third Sector will shortly publish a Prior Interest Notice in the Official Journal of the European Union. Campbell Robb, the Director General of the Office, said, “Futurebuilders has proved to be an innovative and ground-breaking response to the sector’s desire for loan-based finance to support their ability to deliver impeccable public services.” He added that the Fund would need to evolve to build on the lessons of its experience so far so it could continue to enhance the sector’s ability to transform people’s lives.

One lesson already learned has been the need for the programme to have a simpler structural arrangement with the Government. Under EU procurement rules, that will mean a new tender process is necessary to ensure a new arrangement can be in place from the beginning April 2008, the start of the new spending period.

The tender process will be looking for a partner that can manage the remaining funds allocated by Government to Futurebuilders, take responsibility for assessing applications for new loans and grants and manage existing loans, grants and loan guarantees. The Cabinet Office says it does not expect community and voluntary organisations that receive funding to be affected by this process.