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Council set to make cuts to voluntary sector funding

Monday, December 6th, 2021 7:36pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

A Derbyshire council is set to pull hundreds of thousands of pounds from charities supporting the county's most vulnerable during the pandemic.

Derbyshire County Council has been reviewing the money it gives to voluntary groups for around three years.

A decision has been deferred several times but it is now looking to consult on how it provides that funding, with 18 groups currently set to lose a combined total of £300,000 next year.

Grants to voluntary groups would also no longer be recurring, meaning they will always be given on a fixed-term basis and not automatically renewed each year.

This would make it more difficult for voluntary groups to plan ahead, an issue which leaders have often raised over the past few years.

The county council needs to make cuts in excess of £64 million by the 2024 financial year in order to balance its books.

Among those currently on the chopping block are grants to Age UK Derby and Derbyshire; Buxton Festival; Erewash Voluntary Action CVS; Glossopdale Furniture Project; Heanor Salcare; Level Centre Ltd; and South Derbyshire CVS.

On funding for voluntary groups, the county council says: “If funding is redesigned or withdrawn, then there could be a specific impact on the individual beneficiaries if a loss of funding impacts on whether activities are continued to be provided. 

“The full impact of proposals on those cohorts will be ascertained through consultation.

“As it is proposed all recurring grant funding would end, it is also proposed that redesign and exit plans form a vital part of how this is practically achieved. 

“Individual plans would be designed in discussion with the relevant organisation to manage the potential loss of grant funding or for the preparation for commissioning arrangements. 

“With any change, it is anticipated that regardless of the outcome, there will be a level of anxiety experienced by the review and recommissioning of funding, especially as some of these groups have been long standing and provide activities to vulnerable groups. 

“The council will work closely with organisations to ensure that plans and timeframes are clear and any transitions can be managed as effectively as possible.

“The review of general voluntary community sector grants identified that many recurring grants to voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations have been extended year-on-year for significant periods of time without review or a competitive process to award funding.

“In a number of cases, grants have not been reviewed at all despite funding being allocated over a significant number of years. 

“There are thousands of VCS organisations in Derbyshire, however only a small proportion of them receive awards from the council. 

“Whilst the council is willing to continue its support to VCS organisations through one-off grant funding, it is recommended that cabinet agree to consult on whether the council should adopt the principle that it will no longer support the award of grant funding to any organisation in the future without a fixed end date – save in exceptional circumstances.”

Some grants which are to be “redesigned” as opposed to scrapped are those which enable the authority to meet its legal obligations for care around the county.

These “redesigned” grants would be to target key priorities including social isolation and loneliness, support for the over 50s and advice services.

Those which are set to be scrapped focus on grants which meet the council’s aims, provide value for money and support a fair distribution of resources. 

It says that ideally these would be commissioned due to their benefit to the authority.

The authority intends to consult on the plans from December 20 to March 20.

A decision would then be made in May with letters sent to organisations to “put them on notice” in August.

In July, the authority gave voluntary groups an extension of their funding to last until March next year “due to the possible emergence of new variants and local lockdowns, current support will continue with many residents being asked again to shield”.

Groups can now look forward to a potential cut to their funding after bracing through a further traumatic wave of Covid-19.

It said in July: “Voluntary and community sector infrastructure providers across the county have been a vital source of support in mobilising volunteers and the wider sector to assist with response and recovery efforts and support residents, many of whom are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable throughout the Covid pandemic.”

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