Spotlight on volunteer centre axe

VOLUNTARY sector groups and organisations are being urged to attend a meeting to discuss the closure of a service that has helped thousands of volunteers.

The Volunteer Centre, which is run by Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), is set to close in April with the loss of six full and part-time staff members as a result of Government spending cuts.

The service, which provides a "job centre" role for voluntary organisations, has been running for 24 years and has given guidance, information and advice to 10,000 volunteers.

Over the past year alone, 759 volunteers have been interviewed at the centre, which is based at HVDA's Victoria Road office.

Now staff at the HVDA have arranged a meeting next week to give organisations and individuals the chance to discuss the closure and what can be done to bridge the gap.

Bosses say they have no choice as the centre relies on 134,000 of funding from the Government's Working Neighbourhoods Fund (WNF), which has been axed as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The 5.5m WNF fund is distributed locally by Hartlepool Borough Council.

HVDA manager Keith Bayley said they have been unsuccessful in other funding bids and while they are still waiting to hear back on other applications, he said it is likely to close.

He said: "We have had a lot of contact from voluntary groups, organisations and individuals since the article appeared in the Mail so we thought it was best to arrange a meeting for people to have their say on the plans.

"We have made one or two representations to the council about the matter and this is a chance to see if anyone else wants to do the same."

Mr Bayley has previously said that without the centre many voluntary community groups would find it more difficult to recruit suitable volunteers and those wanting to volunteer will not be fully informed on the available opportunities.

The meeting is set to take place on Monday, January 24, at the Hartlepool Peoples Centre, in Raby Road, at 5pm.

For more information, call the HVDA on (01429) 262641.