To update Scrutiny Board Members on the progress being made in creating a strategic assessment of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors in Solihull.
In attendance: Austin Rodriguez (Solihull MBC – Head of Housing & Communities) andCouncillor D Howell – Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure).
The Board considered a detailed report and presentation that provided an overview and update of the progress being made in creating a strategic assessment of the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors within Solihull.
Councillor D Howell, Cabinet Member for Communities & Leisure, highlighted the importance of the work being undertaken and commended the intentions of the VCSE Strategic Assessment to the Board.
Having considered the report, the Board asked the following questions and/or made the following observations:
· The Chairman welcomed the report and reaffirmed the importance of Solihull’s voluntary and community sector.
· Cllr B Groom highlighted the usefulness of having the baseline data that would inform the content of the strategic assessment as it continued to be developed. Charities, often referred to as micro-charities, were highlighted and Officers were asked to consider within the strategic assessment what assistance could be afforded to them to ensure they remained sustainable and what additional skills might need to be offered to support their trustees, given the valuable work they undertook within local communities.
· Cllr P Hogarth MBE stated that the number of charities appeared to be growing and concern was expressed that there may be a perception of too much duplication in the work undertaken by them. Officers were also asked how the overheads of charities and the salaries of their senior staff were scrutinised. Officers acknowledged that competition between charities was an issue and future collaboration between them would be encouraged. In terms of salaries, these varied by the size of the charity itself. No large charities were registered in Solihull and it was not envisaged that any paid salaries within the smaller, Solihull-based, charities would give rise to any concerns.
· Cllr M Carthew highlighted the reported trends where charities were typically located and asked for further detail on the perception that they were sited near to large retail centres and/or other commercial areas. Officers advised that more work was needed to understand these trends in terms of why a charity chose a specific area to base itself over another.
· Cllr P Hogarth MBE highlighted the value of charities directly associated with major businesses within Solihull, such as Birmingham Airport’s Community Trust Fund. Officers reaffirmed the community value of these and how they added value to VCSE overall.
· Cllr S Sheshabhatter acknowledged the value of the voluntary and community sector and highlighted the typical age groups that participated in charity activities. It was suggested that the strategic assessment should seek to encourage greater participation and volunteering from a wider age group, particularly 25-34yrs. Officers noted the concerns and highlighted that participation from this age group was a challenge nationally.
That, subject to the observations and comments recorded in the preamble above, the Board:
(i) Welcomes the current progress towards the development of the VCSE Strategic Assessment (as at v1.0); and
(ii) Agrees to consider (v2.0) of the VCSE Strategic Assessment in 12 months time as part of the Boards 2023/24 Work Programme.