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Liberal Democrats Make Last Minute Bid to Protect Redditch’s Voluntary Sector.

January 13, 2020 8:00 AM
By Redditch Lib Dems


Redditch Liberal Democrats have met with senior Conservative
councillor, Cllr Mike Rouse, to set out a compromise position ahead of
Tuesday's decision regarding the Council's concessionary rents scheme and VCS
grants funding which it believes will protect and enhance the Voluntary and
Community Sector in Redditch.





This follows the decision taken at the Overview and Scrutiny
meeting on Thursday evening to push ahead with plans to cut some or all of the
funding to VCS groups.





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The Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommended the council push ahead with the cuts on Thursday night.





Andy Thompson, spokesperson for Redditch Liberal Democrats said
"it was made clear by Cllr Thain that the council faced bankruptcy if savings
were not made. Having heard the evidence presented on Thursday night it became
apparent that something needed to be added to the plans to protect and enhance
the VCS once these cuts come into force."





Redditch Liberal Democrat's would like to commend Cllr Rouse
for putting party politics aside and agreeing to meet with us to hear our
ideas. We recognise that changing things at this late stage is difficult but we
believe that our ideas can be incorporated into the plans going forward.





Our plan, which will see the bulk of the remaining grant pot
ringfenced to appoint a specialist funding and community development role for
three years with three specific aims:





  1. To support those
    organisations affected by the decision regarding concessionary rents identify
    avenues to meet the increase in rent due.
  2. To support other
    VCS organisation to identify and secure funding from external funding bodies.
  3. To support VCS
    organisations in enhancing governance and business planning so that they are
    able to become increasingly self-sufficient.





With the likely outcome that the grant pot will be cut to
just £43k in year one, there is a need to be creative with how that money is
used. This creation of this role, which we see located within a suitable VCS
organisation, should help local organisations bring in far more funding than
would be available through the council and would be the catalyst in
transitioning the VCS towards resilience and self-sufficiency - something that
Cllr Thain stated he wanted to achieve.





We also recognise that for many organisations, having secure and affordable premises is something that is vital to their ongoing success. We believe that the council must make a positive commitment to enabling Community Asset Transfers to suitable VCS organisations.

The transferring of council assets into community control is possible under existing legislation and, if the council does this on long leases, the community organisations that take over responsibility for running the property can secure funding to invest and improve the properties.





We recognise that there is a great deal of work involved in getting organisations ready for this but we believe that, with the support of the specialist funding and community development post holder, that this could become reality in a few years' time. When local government funding is in crisis and services are cut to the bare bones, it is the Voluntary and Community Sector that steps up to help those vulnerable people who fall through the gaps when services are stretched.





We believe that now is the time to be brave and to invest in our Voluntary and Community Sector so that those who need help the most continue to get it as the cuts kick in.