Thursday, 16 December 2010

Tories reject Lib Dem bid to save voluntary organisations

Huntingdonshire Tories have voted down a proposal from the Liberal Democrats that cuts in funding to voluntary organisations should be removed from next year’s draft budget.

Faced with a shortfall in resources, the ruling group on the District Council has made several unpopular proposals including a reduction of 81% in the funding for local voluntary bodies that provide much-needed services to the neediest people in the district.

Lib Dem Leader Peter Downes proposed an amendment that this cut be removed from the budget in order to give voluntary organisations funding stability so they could develop further in future. He offered a list of ways in which off-setting savings might be made.

The Tories rejected the amendment but said that the idea would be discussed further at the next meeting of the Economic Well-being Scrutiny Panel on Thursday, January 13th at 7 p.m. in Pathfinder House.

This decision followed an impressive presentation to the Council by representatives of the voluntary sector in Huntingdonshire. Julie Farrow of the Volunteer Forum explained how the small grant to the Forum enables it to help charities and voluntary organisations lever in grants for their work. Last year over £700,000 was generated in this way. Other speakers emphasised the value to the community of the voluntary sector. Mike Baker, LD Councillor for Ellington, said that doing voluntary work was satisfying to the volunteer as well as providing benefit to those in need. He highlighted the social car service as an example.

Huntingdon East Lib Dem councillor Ste Greenall pointed out that David Cameron himself had given his backing to supporting the voluntary sector as part of his vision of the ‘Big Society’.

Steve van de Kerkhove, LD councillor for Eynesbury East, said that St. Neots Town Council, which is controlled by the Lib Dems, would actually be increasing its grants to voluntary bodies in St. Neots next financial year.

Mike Shellens, LD Councillor for Huntingdon East, said that the Tory response was disappointing after the good words they had said about the work of volunteers. ‘The Tories in Huntingdonshire simply cannot bring themselves to accept that the Lib Dems might actually have some good ideas’.