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Axe to fall on charity grants

Streetlife, Buchanan Street, Blackpool. Jane Hugo (CEO).

Streetlife, Buchanan Street, Blackpool. Jane Hugo (CEO).

Charities which help some of Blackpool’s most vulnerable residents could face losing up to £400,000 worth of council funding.

Town hall chiefs are proposing to axe the annual grants which help support voluntary organisations including the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Streetlife homeless charity and the Claremont First Step Centre.

The council says it will continue to support the groups by paying for individual services provided by the voluntary sector instead.

Currently the council spends around £4.5m commissioning services in this way.

As part of cuts which will see £36m slashed from the council’s budget over the next two years, it is proposed to reduce grants to the voluntary sector by 50 per cent in the next financial year, and scrap them completely the following year.

The changes are due to come into effect from the end of June to give organisations more time to consider their options for the future.

A town hall report says: “This proposal is based on the premise that opportunities for the voluntary sector are more appropriately developed through commissioned work rather than grants.”

The council is working with the Blackpool Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) as part of the consultation process.”

CVS chief executive Richard Emmess said: “The majority of the spend the council has in the community, voluntary and faith sector is already commissioned.

“So we are talking about a relatively small amount of money in comparison.

difficult

“We are still working through the implications.

“We all understand the pressure the local authority is under and we very much need to work with them as ultimately we have to make sure the people of the town are protected and supported during what is a difficult time.”

Jane Hugo, chief executive of Streetlife, which currently receives £45,000 in a council grant, said she hoped the council would still support the charity.

She said: “We are all living in incredibly tough times.

“It is really difficult for the council to prioritise how they are going to make the cuts.

“But at the end of the day, the council has pledged to continue to support the most vulnerable and Streetlife is working with young, homeless people and you don’t get much more vulnerable than that.”

Joanne Shepherd, chief officer of the Claremont First Step Centre on Dickson Road, North Shore which last year received £21,430, said: “The council cuts are substantial but the support we give people still has to be delivered to the community.

“We do have concerns about the changes, but we have a good track record and have shown we do deliver the services that have been commissioned from us.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said many voluntary groups helped ease the strain on both social services and the NHS.

He added: “The volunteers who work in these groups are the backbone of our whole community and without them our social care services would crumble.

“There is some duplication in the services they provide and a more productive solution would be some cost saving joint collaboration within a full review of all providers.”

But he warned against trying to balance the books “at the cost of vulnerable people in the town”.

 

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