Saturday, May 29, 2010

Charity funding cuts


A leading voluntary sector worker fears Wiltshire Council is preparing to make big cuts that could affect many west Wiltshire organisations.

Veronica McAndry, director of the Bridge House Community Trust, in Stallard Street, Trowbridge, which provides assistance to the voluntary sector, says funding could be at risk after Wiltshire Council changed the way it awards grants.

Bridge House has already lost all of its public funding and is now relying on its own assets and fundraising efforts to stay afloat.

Mrs McAndry said: “I suspect that they will be cutting to the bone and I think they will find it difficult to do anything other than what they really have to do as a statutory requirement.

“We lost all of our public funding in April because of the changes they have been making, but we will continue to try and provide a service here in west Wiltshire. We have gone from having 11 people working here to just me and one other person. I just don’t know how they are going to deliver services here by bypassing us.”

There will now be a single process for grant applications, after councillors approved the changes at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

The council had been relying on five existing processes, a legacy of the former district councils.

A report outlining the changes encourages organisations to consider their priorities for the future, suggesting that cuts to non-essential projects could be made.

The council said that future funding decisions will have to be made “within budget availability”. The amount the council will fund the voluntary sector is to be decided upon in the current financial year.

A decision may be made once the national coalition government reveals its Emergency Budget on June 22.

Council leader Jane Scott said: “These changes are going to make it clear to the voluntary sector how we can fund and support them.

“It is not talking about taking money away from them but about how we will do business with them in the future. For the last two years we have kept up our level of funding.” The government has this week announced £6.2bn in savings in a bid to tackle the £156bn national deficit.

Of this, £1.165bn will come from the cutting of grants to local authorities.

Brian Deeley, chief executive of Age UK Wiltshire, added: “Any potential cuts in funding of the help Age UK Wiltshire offers to older people is obviously worrying.

“However our priority will be to continue to provide and develop services in response to the needs of people in the county within the resources available to us.”