Council's plans for voluntary groups' funding come in for criticism
PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 December 2018
Proposals to reduce cash for community initiatives have concerned councillors who fear Bexley's voluntary groups will be asked to do more with less resources.
As Bexley Council looks to balance its books ahead of a predicted £8m funding gap, one proposal has been tabled to cut £25,000 from the budget that supports community projects and crowdfunding initiatives.
The council has proposed taking the money from a currently unused pot of £60,000 in the community partnerships budget, and invest £30,000 in a specialist bid writer to apply for more government cash.
Earlier this year Bexley Council launched #DoItForBexley, an effort to engage residents to do more for the community and be more civic minded.
Labour councillor Mabel Ogundayo said voluntary groups were being asked to do more roles traditionally provided by the council for a fraction of the funding.
Cllr Ogundayo said: “If we are putting pressure on voluntary sector to take more of a role, are we sure that the bid writer will be able to help continue that?
“If we are putting more pressure on the community groups, the least we can do is provide them with adequate staffing to complete their role.”
Cllr Alex Sawyer, the cabinet member for growth, said services would not be impacted as the cash would come from pots that haven’t been used yet, and a new hire would be tasked with finding new funding.
“The community partnership team are exceptionally good but they can’t be experts at everything and that’s the purpose of bringing in the bid writer,” Cllr Sawyer said.
“I’m not going to put my neck on the line but I don’t think the savings listed here will impact too stringently.
“The team is well staffed, and this budget proposal still enables us to invest.
“The council seeks an ongoing and deep relationship and partnership with organisations.
“Partnership is the key word, we both have to step up to the plate – this isn’t going to be one-way traffic.
“There may be a reduction but there is a £35,000 investment and I am confident there will be match-funding.
“If they can put some money in we can put some money in. I am confident there will be no service reductions.”
Cllr Ogundayo said services could be under too much pressure by 2023 if central government cuts to local authorities continue.
“We are asking them to take up much more roles we have traditionally provided”, the councillor said.
“I understand we have been told that staffing is adequate but based on the government’s giving to the council, we will continue to have cuts.
“It will get to a point under this trajectory we will be asking them to do a lot more.”
The council is currently consulting on its budget proposals, which also include an increase on garden waste collection costs and halving the money available to friends of parks groups – a proposal has also been put forward to charge dog walkers for using the borough’s parks.
The budget for community libraries is also being reconsidered, along with potential major changes to how adult social care is provided in the borough in an effort to streamline the service.