A DECISION to claw back unclaimed cash earmarked for charities and community groups has led to accusations of stealth cuts to funding for voluntary organisations.
The ruling Labour group on Redditch Borough Council has agreed to put almost £40,000 of unspent cash from this year’s Community Sector Grant Programme back into its savings – or balances – to support the authority’s overall budget, rather than re-offering the money to the voluntary sector.
A total of £222,000 was available to bid for and 20 applications were made amounting to £204,807. In the end £182,060 was approved to be spent, leaving the leftover money.
But the move was seized upon by Coun Brandon Clayton, deputy leader of the Conservative group, who said it amounted to a cut, along with the resetting of the maximum limit in each category which meant groups like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau had received £75,000 instead of the £80,000 they had got last year.
“It doesn’t matter how you look at this, by taking this money back into balances this is a cut to the voluntary sector.” he told an executive committee meeting on Tuesday (January 20).
Conservative group leader Juliet Brunner said she knew of voluntary groups which had not been able to bid because the absence of a key member of the council’s grants team meant they had not received the advice or support they needed.
But deputy council leader Greg Chance said there was no conspiracy to cut funding to the voluntary sector. He added the total amount of money available was the same as last year and would be the same next year, while the process had been improved following a review by councillors and those organisations whose bids met the criteria had been awarded money.
“The voluntary sector did not put in enough bids at the end of the day so the only fair thing to do is to put that into balances and see where we need to use that elsewhere.” he said.
“Should we stand on the Town Hall roof and scatter £80,000 around for people to collect? That’s not a very good way to spend people’s money I would suggest.”
Judith Willis, head of community services, said part of the reason for the underspend was because some groups they had been expecting bids from had informed them they were looking at other funding sources while she insisted support had still been given to voluntary groups despite the absence of the staff member.