Council is to debate cuts

A COUNCIL is to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss proposals to slash funding to voluntary and community sector groups amid fears some could face closure.

The full council meeting will be held to discuss Hartlepool Borough Council’s decision to cut its Community Pool funding for specialist support services from £150,000 to £75,000, with narrower eligibility criteria focusing on family poverty, which could exclude groups previously funded.

It was also agreed recently to reduce the maximum grant that groups can apply for from £15,000 down to £10,000, while there will also be no funding for the HVDA, based in Victoria Road, from May next year after it was agreed to stop a contract worth £70,000.

Keith Bayley, manager of Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA), said HVDA is not under threat and believes the changes will have a “devastating” affect in town, but he said next Tuesday night’s extraordinary full council meeting will give the voluntary sector chance to again push their case.

Several independent and Putting Hartlepool First councillors called for the meeting and say while they acknowledge voluntary sector cuts are inevitable, they disagree with the proposed 100 per cent cut in funding to the HVDA.

A statement added: “We have grave concerns about the proposed 100 per cent cut in funding to the sector’s only infrastructure body - something which appears not to be the case in the other Tees Valley areas.

“The knock-on effect of these cuts on other voluntary sector groups, and the ability of the sector to bring in other much-needed and necessary funds, is of particular concern and council is therefore requested to discuss these issues and see if there is a way that it can fund the only infrastructure body to some extent.”

HVDA has received council funding since 1986 and in 2012-13 secured £194,000 of funding for other groups from external sources, supporting 252 groups and 686 volunteers.

In 2013-14, the Community Pool budget supported 14 groups with three groups awarded contracts, Hartlepool Credit Union, HVDA and West View Advice & Resource Centre and 11 groups awarded grants including ADDvance, Epilepsy Outlook, Hart Gables, Hartlepool Access Group, Hartlepool Bereavement Service and Hartlepool People Centre.

The decision was taken by the council’s finance and policy committee, who said the cuts needed to be made due to savage budget pressures facing the council, which is looking to save £16m.

The meeting takes place on Tuesday, November 19, at 7pm in the Council Chamber at the Civic Centre.