Speaking at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting at the Council House last night, spokesperson Andy Thompson, who has over a decade’s experience supporting voluntary and community organisations, call the decision “short sighted and damaging”.
The council has drawn up plans to cut the grants pot by up to 100% for the next financial year as well as charge higher rents for voluntary groups who occupy council owned properties as part of drastic measures to save the council from bankruptcy.
In respect of the plan to increase the rents, Andy Thompson said:
“The problem here is that the council have over-valued these sub-standard properties and believe that they could let the properties to commercial clients and make around £82k a year more which is quite frankly ridiculous. One of the properties is completely unlettable because of structural defects, others would need significant repair to get them to a condition where they were attractive to commercial clients and others are earmarked for demolition in the next few years.”
“The reality is that should these community organisations leave these properties, the council would lose some or all of the £35k it currently gets in rents and then have to pay to keep the buildings secure and in good repair which will end up costing money and not saving it.”
What is of even greater concern is the plan to use the grants budget to offset the perceived £82k loss which means that the amount available for other community groups to draw on is slashed by more than half or removed completely.
“When the financial crash of 2008 occurred, and central and local government money dried up, we saw how the voluntary and community sector stepped up to support vulnerable people who had slipped through the gaps in the services provided by local authorities. With the prospect of a further financial crisis looming, now is the time to be investing in our voluntary and community organisations so that they can become self-sufficient and step up once again to help those who need it.”
We recognise that the council do not have to fund the voluntary and community sector but simply pulling their funding overnight risks causing many of these vital organisations to fold. When council services are cut to the bare bones, who is going to be there to help those who need it?