The government’s commitment to a sustainable communities agenda was in doubt this week after it emerged that architecture watchdog CABE has had its training budget cut by more than half

The ODPM awarded CABE’s skills programme £900,000 for 2005/06, a £1.1m cut that reduces the overall budget to about £11m.

The reduction in funding comes as the quango undergoes senior staff changes and as the government is emphasising the need to train planners and regeneration professionals to deliver 200,000 homes in the South-east.

One source close to CABE said the body had initially thought that the £1.1m sum that the ODPM saved was to be ploughed into the proposed National Centre for Sustainable Communities Skills, but that this is not the case.

The source said: “The various parts of government don’t always move in the same direction at the same time.”

CABE receives most of its income from the ODPM and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. In December it escaped a round of cuts imposed on cultural organisations by the DCMS, in which English Heritage’s budget was reduced 5%. CABE’s was not cut at this time, but it was told that the budget for its core programmes would not be raised automatically over the next three years to match inflation.

CABE’s skills programme, which is funded by the ODPM, was the only part of its budget for 2005/06 that had remained unknown.

The ODPM denied there had been a cut in CABE’s skills budget, describing the 2004/05 budget of £2m as a “one-off” payment. An ODPM spokesperson said the money has not been part of CABE’s baseline budget.

We have taken a hit but are imaginative in how to get around this

CABE insider

Another source at CABE said that it was expected to make efficiency savings and was confident it could absorb the cuts.

The source said: “We have taken a hit, but we are imaginative in how we are getting around this and in looking for other sources of funding across government.”

The cuts have emerged in the wake of a government report that criticised CABE for lacking accountability. An ODPM select committee cautioned against CABE being seen as a “self-serving clique”.

CABE is understood to be restructuring the organisation after staff changes. Joanna Averley, director of enabling, is set to be promoted, possibly to the role of deputy chief executive, under chief executive Richard Simmons.

CABE is also set to fill the hole left by the departure of Peter Stewart, formerly the design review director. The post is to be replaced with a director of design review and architecture, which will have a broader remit.