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Support for Northumberland's voluntary sector likely to face cuts

Coun Ian Swithenbank
Coun Ian Swithenbank

Financial support for the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in Northumberland could be cut by more than a quarter, but the entire budget is at risk.

The VCS support services commission represents the only generic financial support the county council offers to VCS infrastructure organisations to provide advice and support services across Northumberland.

The current contract was awarded to Northumberland CVA (Community Voluntary Action) in 2014 for a three-year period and is valued at £137,500 a year.

But in the budget agreed in February, the council approved the axing of this commission, subject to consultation which meant that the contract was extended until March 2019 to allow this to take place.

A report to last Wednesday’s meeting of the communities and place committee explained that the feedback from this consultation clearly confirms that the commission supports the delivery of a number of activities that are valued by the VCS.

And committee members were told that there is a desire among the council’s administration not to scrap the funding altogether, with the minimum contract for a coherent service said to be £100,000.

In response to a question about what would be lost through a £37,000 cut, Tony Kirsop, the council’s community regeneration manager, said that it was hoped other initiatives could take up the slack so that ‘the impact will be minimal’.

Councillors on the committee were unanimous in supporting calls for a £100,000 contract for the next two years – not without reluctance but with the desire of saving it in some form.

Coun Liz Dunn said: “I wouldn’t like to lose it all together, that shouldn’t be on the table, but £37,000 is a sizeable chunk.”

Acting chairman, Coun Ian Swithenbank, said: “I wouldn’t want to play politics with this and want to make we get as much out of this as possible.

“With this type of commission, it’s not just the funding, but in a year without money, the expertise is lost.”

A decision is due to be made by the cabinet at its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, October 9).

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service