Liberal Democrats Make Last Minute Bid to Protect Redditch’s Voluntary Sector.

Redditch Liberal Democrats have met with senior Conservative councillor, Cllr Mike Rouse, to set out a compromise position ahead of Tuesday’s decision regarding the Council’s concessionary rents scheme and VCS grants funding which it believes will protect and enhance the Voluntary and Community Sector in Redditch.

This follows the decision taken at the Overview and Scrutiny meeting on Thursday evening to push ahead with plans to cut some or all of the funding to VCS groups.

Overview and Scrutiny
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended the council push ahead with the cuts on Thursday night.

Andy Thompson, spokesperson for Redditch Liberal Democrats said “it was made clear by Cllr Thain that the council faced bankruptcy if savings were not made. Having heard the evidence presented on Thursday night it became apparent that something needed to be added to the plans to protect and enhance the VCS once these cuts come into force.”

Redditch Liberal Democrat’s would like to commend Cllr Rouse for putting party politics aside and agreeing to meet with us to hear our ideas. We recognise that changing things at this late stage is difficult but we believe that our ideas can be incorporated into the plans going forward.

Our plan, which will see the bulk of the remaining grant pot ringfenced to appoint a specialist funding and community development role for three years with three specific aims:

  1. To support those organisations affected by the decision regarding concessionary rents identify avenues to meet the increase in rent due.
  2. To support other VCS organisation to identify and secure funding from external funding bodies.
  3. To support VCS organisations in enhancing governance and business planning so that they are able to become increasingly self-sufficient.

With the likely outcome that the grant pot will be cut to just £43k in year one, there is a need to be creative with how that money is used. This creation of this role, which we see located within a suitable VCS organisation, should help local organisations bring in far more funding than would be available through the council and would be the catalyst in transitioning the VCS towards resilience and self-sufficiency – something that Cllr Thain stated he wanted to achieve.

We also recognise that for many organisations, having secure and affordable premises is something that is vital to their ongoing success. We believe that the council must make a positive commitment to enabling Community Asset Transfers to suitable VCS organisations.

The transferring of council assets into community control is possible under existing legislation and, if the council does this on long leases, the community organisations that take over responsibility for running the property can secure funding to invest and improve the properties.

We recognise that there is a great deal of work involved in getting organisations ready for this but we believe that, with the support of the specialist funding and community development post holder, that this could become reality in a few years’ time. When local government funding is in crisis and services are cut to the bare bones, it is the Voluntary and Community Sector that steps up to help those vulnerable people who fall through the gaps when services are stretched.

We believe that now is the time to be brave and to invest in our Voluntary and Community Sector so that those who need help the most continue to get it as the cuts kick in.