23rd Sep, 2020

Council is set to decide future of Redditch's Voluntary and Community Sector

Harry Leach 10th Jan, 2020

ALL eyes will be on the borough council next week as it decides how it will support its Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) over the next three years.

Both the Concessionary Rents Scheme and the VCS Grants Pot (including the Councillor Community Grants Scheme) are currently under review.

Six options are on the table and these will be discussed in detail at the executive meeting on Tuesday, January 14.

The most controversial option is to get rid of all of the grants completely and cease all funding to save the cash-strapped council £283,000 per year.

But council officers admit the negatives of that option far outweigh the positives, sparking a huge rise in demand for the cut services with the town’s most vulnerable the first to be affected.

Currently the charities, like Reach CIC, Barn, Redditch Boxing Club, receive concessionary rents, paying 30 per cent of market value at a cost to the council of £82,000 a year.

Officers acknowledge that if VCS organisations vacated their premises or were forced to close should the concession be removed the council would actually lose rental income – anything up to £180,000 per year – until new tenants move in.

Meanwhile the charities say for every pound invested in the VCS the council saves huge amounts in preserving the social fabric of the town.

Another potential option is to terminate all of the groups’ concessionary rents and reduce the VCS Grants Pot to £175,000 from £220,000.

This would leave the VCS organisations to bid for grants to cover their core costs, with a maximum bid of up to £5,000 available.

Other options being touted include maintaining the Concessionary Rents Scheme but withdrawing the wider VCS Grants Scheme completely or ending the Concessionary Rents Scheme over a three-year transition period.

Sarah Lee of Matchborough Boxing Club said: “Unfortunately when one pot of money dries up you just have to try and find another.

“We have had a look at the options and now we’re just going to wait and see which one is chosen.

“I think it’s better to work with the council to try and find a way of moving forward together rather than pointing the finger.”

Mark Barron of Batchley Support Group said he will be attending Tuesday’s meeting.

“We didn’t want any cuts or options on the table but now they are we have to accept that we have to choose the best from a bad bunch.”

The full list of options can be viewed on www.redditchbc.gov.uk.

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