Vital voluntary lifeline services used by hundreds of people in Hartlepool face an uncertain future.
There are fears councillors could pull the plug on funding for groups – which last year totalled about £120,000.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Finance and Policy Committee is to meet on November 24 to decide whether cash given to Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) groups should be axed in a bid to balance the books.
It comes after the Government has shrunk the local authority’s budget by 40 per cent and it must find savings of £7.4m for 2015/16.
Grants of between £4,000 and £10,000 from the Community Pool budget were handed out to nine town groups in the 2014/15.
But some of them are now fearing for their future and have admitted that they may have to reduce the services they offer, or even face closure as a result of the cost-cutting measures.
They say this will have a drastic impact on the town’s families and other vulnerable people who depend on them.
Keith Bayley, manager at Hartlepool Voluntary Development Association (HVDA) which supports VCS groups throughout the town, said:
“At the Finance and Policy Committee meeting the council will consider stopping all grant funding for VCS groups.
“This comes after a decision last year to reduce the budget by 50 per cent.
“Groups which provide services to some of the most disadvantaged people in Hartlepool are likely to suffer most with people with disabilities, people who cannot afford to feed themselves, the lonely and isolated and people with mental health problems likely to be some of the main losers.
“Having some level of grant funding for VCS groups and the services they provide allows the council to support some of the most vulnerable people in Hartlepool at a very low cost compared to other areas where the council pays for such services delivered via contracts.
“Grants are usually a partial contribution to service delivery costs where services are being delivered by a VCS group who, in turn obtain or raise the rest of the money from other sources.
“This is an important reason why some services provided by VCS groups and funded by grants provide such good value for money.
“It also allows the council to stand alongside and support local people who are trying to find solutions to some of the most pressing problems faced by local people.”
The council’s chief executive Dave Stubbs laid the blame at the door of the Government.
“Over the last four years we have seen our level of Government funding cut by almost 40 per cent and for 2015/16 we have to find savings of £7.4m to balance the books.”
“As we have stated on a number of occasions previously, this will inevitably result in some very tough decisions.
“A report to the Finance and Policy Committee on November 24 will set out a range of savings proposals, including withdrawing funding for some voluntary and community sector groups as part of a package of major cuts that we have had to identify due to the significant reductions in our grant from government.
“It is important however that any decision on the budget is not viewed in isolation because overall the council continues to direct resources to protect the most vulnerable people in the town.
“Hartlepool and other councils in the North-East have had cuts of double the national average and have more deprived communities that need significant support.
“We continue to urge the Government to address this unfairness at every opportunity.”
The Hartlepool services which received money in the 2014/15 pot of cash were Hartlepool PATCH which received £10,000, and The People’s Centre, in Raby Road, which also received £10,000.
Others were Making a Difference which got £10,000, Hart Gables which was rewarded £9,950.04, the Salaam Community Centre which got £9,888, Hartlepool Mind with £8,719, West View Project which received £6,195, Hartlepool Foodbank which was granted £5,518.46 and Epilepsy Outlook which got £4,729.50.
At a subsequent council meeting in May, councillors also approved an additional one-off contribution of £21,143 to the Community Pool programme, out of which Hartlepool Foodbank received a further £2,111, Age UK Teesside received £9,032, and Hartlepool Access Group received £10,000 for its Shopmobility scheme.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 17 Nov 2014