Political row after lifeline for key service

A service providing support to victims of domestic violence in Northumberland will continue after funding was secured to keep it running into next year.

But a political war of words has broken out following the news that money has been allocated by Northumberland County Council to keep Cease24, which provides a county-wide Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) service, going until April 2015. It had been facing closure at the end of August.

This followed discussions between the local authority and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Vera Baird, who said: “I’m delighted that the council has found itself able to fund the IDVA service in Northumberland so that there will be an IDVA service in every local authority in Northumbria in 2014/15.

“It is a pity (Liberal Democrat) Alan Beith MP, who supports the Government that is slashing such services, tried to play politics with the issue.

“It is regrettable too that a campaign alleged that I had some obligation to fund this service when, not only is that incorrect but there is currently little money in the police budget to pay for policing itself.

“It is great news that my political colleagues at the council have stood strong on this issue. I congratulate them.”

Mr Beith said he is delighted that funding has been found to keep the service, which supports high-risk adults and children caught up in domestic violence, going until April 2015.

He added: “I have been putting pressure on Northumberland County Council and the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner to find the relatively small amount of funding which would be needed to maintain the service until the end of March 2015.

“This would allow time to bid for future funds, including funding from the PCC’s office which will become available from 1 April 2015 when responsibility for commissioning some victims’ services transfers to the PCC.

“The PCC, despite saying that domestic violence is her top priority, was not forthcoming with real support for people whose lives are at risk in my constituency and the rest of Northumberland.”

Coun Andrew Tebbutt, on behalf of the county council’s Lib Dem group, made consistent representations to the Labour administration about the lack of funding since it first became a problem earlier in the summer.

He said: “I know that the Police Commissioner could have given additional funding from her own budget if she had chosen to do so. She has advocated strongly for the protection of women from domestic violence, so why wouldn’t she use her resources to back up her words?

“I am also disappointed that the Labour administration has associated itself with her statement, as until now, we have worked across the political spectrum in Northumberland to save this service.

“I will be campaigning to ensure money is found to sustain the work of Cease24 beyond March 2015.”

Coun Grant Davey, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We were well aware of the potential impacts of this support not continuing. We had no wish to lose this service and are well aware of our increasing priorities around tackling domestic violence and supporting victims.

“We are under extreme pressure from Government cuts and £230,000 a year is a significant sum of money.

“However, having looked at all options and reviewed our budgets, it has been decided that the council will, in addition to our original commitment to Cease24, provide additional funding this year and we hope that a more long-term sustainable solution can be developed with partners over the coming months.”

“I have held talks with our Police and Crime Commissioner, who is leading the way in tackling the issue of domestic and sexual violence, and we are keen to support her initiatives and to ensure the very best service for victims.”