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21st Oct, 2021

On hold: Council puts the brakes on plan to remove rent relief on charities

Ross Crawford 24th Oct, 2019

HIGHLY controversial plans to remove vital subsidies from local charities using council properties have been put on hold by Redditch Borough Council.

The move comes after four days of intense pressure on the town’s controlling Conservative group as proposals to remove within two years all concessionary rents to the voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations were revealed.

The authority says it will now, albeit belatedly, consult with the charities ‘to forge a way forward so they can continue to benefit the town’.

The policy, which was to have been considered at next Tuesday night’s Executive Committee meeting, would have forced many of the nine organisations affected to close.

Most are run on a shoestring yet would have found their rent increasing by up to £17,000 a year, money they couldn’t afford.

The voluntary sector has grown in Redditch in recent years as volunteers leant their skills and expertise to fill the gap left by council cuts.

However at the same time the local authority failed to budget properly for the concessions it offered them, leaving it today with an £82,000 overspend.

But at an emergency meeting at the Town Hall today, Thursday, October 24, members of the executive committee met to put a brake on the policy.

Councillor David Thain (Con, West), whose portfolio covers corporate management, said: “We have listened to the voices which have come from the VCS and want to get round the table.

“We recognise the invaluable work these groups provide but we have to still recognise this Council faces tough financial challenges.”

Council Leader Matt Dormer (Con, West) added: “We face tough decisions and we are not retreating from making these, but rather are going to look for other sources to help our valued VCS organisations to continue to exist in the borough.”

Gary Roskill, chief executive of Bromsgrove and Redditch Network said: “This is good news but making policy before talking to those it affects is very poor indeed.

“The voluntary sector should never have been put in a position where it had to lobby to be heard.”

Labour group leader Coun Bill Hartnett (Church Hill) said: “Far from postponing this policy they should abandon it and apologise for even proposing it.”

Councillors are planning a bucket collection for the VCS at the free bonfire event it has organised at Arrow Valley Park on November 5.

REDDITCH Borough Council has to find £1.2million in savings in the next financial year after being warned it was in the danger of going bankrupt.

The auditors issued the notice after the council failed to increase council tax by the full amount or increase crematorium charges. Councillors also gave themselves a £60,000 pay rise.

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