5th Mar, 2021

Charities rent hike on back burner as protesters turn up heat on council

Ross Crawford 30th Oct, 2019 Updated: 30th Oct, 2019

“DON’T let them close us down” – that was the message to Redditch Councillors last night as members of the town’s voluntary sector carried out a silent protest at the Town Hall.

More than 50 placard waving representatives from groups like Reach CIC, Redditch Boxing Club and Batchley Support Group plus many more made their presence felt first on the steps of the Town Hall and then by crowding into the committee room itself.

The borough’s controlling Conservative group had planned to remove all rent subsidies from charities based in council properties within two years, a hike in costs that would have seen many go to the wall.

It would have hit nine organisations in total, all lifelines for their communities, groups like the award-winning Sandicroft, Bromsgrove and Redditch Network based in Community House, Where Next? and the Oasis Christian Centre shops in Woodrow and Winyates.

It would also have a knock on effect on other charities using those buildings like the town’s Mental Health Support Group.

Redditch Boxing Club has been so successful at giving young people a sense of purpose, taking crime off the streets and combating obesity that the Duke of Kent is to visit in November.

No consultation had been carried out with the charities concerned and none had received letters informing them of the policy which the council said it had sent out.

What had started out as a scheme to save councillors, who had awarded themselves a £60,000 pay rise last year, £82,000 in rent subsidies turned quickly into a fiasco.

As Labour’s Coun Greg Chance (Central) told Tuesday evening’s executive meeting “now the political heat is getting unbearable” the ruling Conservatives had dropped the matter until a later date.

Speaking after the meeting Labour Group leader Coun Bill Hartnett (Church Hill), who lodged an objection on the issue not being heard by the meeting, said: “I would like to say a big thank you to all who came to the Town Hall on very cold night.

“A wide age range of residents all came to show support for our local voluntary community sector and the great work it does.”

Podcast! We talk to Council Leader Matt Dormer – https://redditchstandard.co.uk/podcasts/

What they said:

“We have 160 people on our books, 125 dependents and we feed 100 people a week – the council says it wants to protect front line services – well we are a front line service – we’re keeping crime off the streets and feeding people who would go hungry” – Jan Barron, Batchley Support Group.

“It’s a silent protest because we just want to show the strength of feeling and to represent some of the people who will be affected by this decision.

“The leader of the council needs to do some research – they’re talking about finding alternative funding but we are all aware of other funding and how to find it.

Rather than talking about ‘moving forward’ he needs to appreciate the value we bring,” Sarah Lee, Redditch Boxing Club.

“I was a service user at The Space in Winyates and for the last 12 to 18 months have volunteered for them. What all these cuts mean is removing the bottom rungs of the ladder and we are the ones left picking up the slack. They award themselves a £60,000 pay rise and we’re living hand to mouth and doing a vital job.” Jenna Thomas, Reach CIC.

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