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Derbyshire council welcomes views on funding cut plans to 50 community and voluntary groups

Derbyshire council has launched a public consultation on its plans to end more than £1m of discretionary funding.

The planned funding cuts come as part of saving plans to balance an estimated overall budget deficit of over £39m for the 2024-25 financial year.

The Conservative-controlled council approved the 12-week consultation into the future of its discretionary grant funding to voluntary and community groups which could see the end of two types of council funding handouts in March 2025 – including Adult Social Care Discretionary Grant Funding and Corporate Services and Transformation Discretionary Grant Funding.

Cabinet Member for Adult Care, Cllr Natalie Hoy, said: “Like all other councils across the country we’re facing increasing financial pressures that are outside our control.

“Many of these organisations have been receiving grants for up to 20 years as a matter of course. Since then, Derbyshire’s population has changed and people’s aspirations, needs and preferences for support have also changed which is why we have to ensure we’re providing services they need.

“Our current financial challenges also mean it is absolutely essential that the limited funding we do have available is spent wisely and that’s why we want to hear from as many people as possible.”

Stopping Adult Social Care Grants would affect 30 community and voluntary groups which currently receive annual grants totalling just over £722,000 from the council, to support work including advocacy, training, befriending and social activities.

And a further 20 groups, that receive just over £333,000 from the council, would be affected by the proposal to stop Corporate Services and Transformation Grants which help with infrastructure support, with groups supporting black and minority ethnic communities and with specialist advice.

Derbyshire County Council stated of this total of 50 organisations, seven would be affected by both sets of proposals under Adult Social Care, and Corporate Services and Transformation, if they are finalised.

The council currently provides discretionary grant funding to 11 voluntary sector organisations across Derbyshire to help with befriending support and it also provides a discretionary grant to seven voluntary sector organisations to provide social inclusion activity including Mencap, Borrowbrook Home Link, Age UK, The African Caribbean Community Association and well-being charity The Bureau.

It has also supported luncheon clubs and the Bolsover Woodlands Enterprise, self-advocacy organisation Our Vision, Our Future for people with learning disabilities, and it has funded ten Voluntary and Community Sector infrastructure organisations.

Following a previous consultation in 2022, all groups receiving funding were told that grants would cease and the council would commission services where required instead.   

However, due to budget pressures, commissioning did not get underway and the council must now prioritise its statutory services.    

Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, Cllr Carol Hart, said: “We have a responsibility to ensure that we are making the best use of our finite resources to support people fairly across the whole of the county and that we are protecting services for those people who need us most.   

“Like many other councils across the country we are facing significant budget pressures that are beyond our control which means we must consider how we use the resources we have available to ensure we can continue to deliver services we have to by law.  

“However I’d like to reassure people that these are proposals only and no decisions will be taken until we’ve had the chance to hear everyone’s views and take them into account.”  

The consultation was launched on May 28 and will run until August 20. People can give their views on both proposals by filling in an online questionnaire via the Derbyshire County Council’s website link https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/have-your-say/consultation-search/consultation-details/end-of-discretionary-grant-funding.aspx where full details can be found.  

An easy-read version of the online questionnaire is also available to fill in online and paper copies of both the standard and easy-read questionnaire are available by emailing policy@derbyshire.gov.uk with requests. 

Library drop-in sessions have also been organised between 10am and midday, at different locations on a variety of dates to help people take part in the consultation. 

These include: Chapel-en-le-Frith on May 28; Alfreton on May 31; Swadlincote on June 3; Chesterfield on June 5; Long Eaton on June 6; Eckington on June 7; Ashbourne on June 12; Bolsover on June 17; Ilkeston on June 18; Heanor on June 19; And Buxton on July 2.  

A direct consultation will also take place with all the organisations likely to be affected by the proposals, according to the council.

Derbyshire County Council says it has been funding voluntary organisations with annual grants for several years but it stated it has been experiencing financial pressures from higher than anticipated inflation with higher prices for fuel, energy and materials as well as an unprecedented increase in demand for adults and children’s social care services.  

The authority stated that it must consider how it prioritises spending on services it is required to provide by law against those which are discretionary for which it has no legal obligation to deliver.  

Its Cabinet also approved an interim grant during a meeting at County Hall, in Matlock, of £78,462 for the Bolsover Woodland Enterprise up to March 2025 to support its work for people with learning disabilities which will bring its funding timetable in line with the other grant recipients. 

The council has been considering a number of far-reaching saving proposals to meet its budget deficit of over £39m for the 2024-25 financial year after it has blamed its financial plight on external economic influences. 

Like many other local authorities, Derbyshire County Council has suffered from high inflation rates, the cost of living crisis, uncertainties with government funding, rising costs and rising demands on services, and the impact of costly pay awards.

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