Today the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has approved the implementation of a landmark Fair Funding Protocol that ‘will cover activities and services that the VCFSE sector carries out in communities that are funded by the GMCA’s budget in Greater Manchester’. The protocol was approved at a GMCA meeting in Bury Town Hall; with Helen Tomlinson, Chief Officer at Bury VCFA and member of the GM VCSE Leadership Group, representing the sector.

This agreement builds on progress the VCSE sector has made in partnership with the GMCA under the Greater Manchester VCSE Accord; through our direct consultation and involvement via the VCFSE Forum in March and October 2023, and through the input of the commissioning and investment group of the GM VCSE leadership group. The protocol is a significant step that will ‘guide how the combined authority plans its grant funding, commissions, and manages contracts with VCFSE organisations.’ It will allow the sector to better deliver for communities and citizens of Greater Manchester.

The protocol will help to improve the partnership and co-creation of services and improve the VCSE sector’s ability to provide publicly funded services and the resilience of these services. The idea of a Fair Funding Protocol was discussed at the first Greater Manchester VCFSE Forum meeting in March 2023 and was further explored in the follow-up forum meeting earlier in October 2023.

Amongst presentations from public sector partners at the October forum meeting, Alison Page Chief Executive of Salford CVS, Director at 10GM, and Co-Chair of the Commissioning and Investment Group of the GM VCSE Leadership Group, outlined successful partnership working in Salford and how a Fair Funding Protocol will support the vital work of VCSE infrastructure organisations like Salford CVS. After the vote to implement the protocol, Alison said,

‘This decision from the GMCA builds on the significant work to strengthen the partnership between the VCSE and public sectors that has been underway for many years through the national and local Compacts, the Accord and the Commissioning Framework. This protocol will enable VCSE organisations to work in closer partnership with the combined authority to address key issues experienced by our communities. A Fair Funding Protocol that accounts for inflationary pressures, allowing the sector the pay at least the Real Living Wage, and normalises three-year funding arrangements is a big step forward.’

 Key features of the protocol

Some of the key elements of the Fair Funding Protocol include, where conditions allow, an annual uplift in contract or grant payments in line with grant payments, three year terms for grant funding agreements, not disproportionately passing on budget cuts to the VCSE sector, and more regular or upfront payments amongst others. The protocol will apply to new agreements only and represents a shared ambition within the confines of the conditions on external funding pots.

The protocol also outlines the GMCA’s intention to further collaborate with the sector through the Accord, building on the latest delivery plan.

The news was welcomed by those who have been working strategically to improve commissioning and investment for the VCSE sector, members of the Greater Manchester VCSE Leadership Group and representatives of VCSE organisations working in the sector

‘LGBT Foundation is a provider of health and wellbeing services for LGBTQ+ communities that relies on public funding, as well as generating other sources of income, to provide support and safe spaces that give a lifeline to those in need. We welcome GMCA’s decision to implement a Fair Funding Protocol for activities funded from the GMCA’s budget. This shows that the combined authority recognises the vital work done by the VCSE sector and that this work must be supported through the current period of uncertainty then on into the future.’

Paul Martin, Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation and Co-Chair of the Commissioning and Investment Group of the GM VCSE Leadership Group.

We know that the funding environment is extremely difficult for the sector right now. GMCA recognise this and the important role our sector plays, and have taken positive steps to support communities and our sector’s role.’

Warren Escadale, VSNW CE and Chair of the GM VCSE Leadership Group.