Hartlepool chief slams snub to town’s volunteers after funding pulled on centre

Keith Bayley, manager of the Hartlepool Volunteer Development Agency.
Keith Bayley, manager of the Hartlepool Volunteer Development Agency.

The boss of a charity says council chiefs neither “understand nor value the contribution of volunteers” after it was refused vital funding.

Hartlepool Voluntary Development Association (HVDA) asked Hartlepool Borough Council for £30,000 out of a £196,000 pot in a bid to relaunch its Volunteer Centre.

The centre used to help create about 300 volunteers a year – before it closed due to funding cuts back in March.

The charity believed that extra volunteers in Hartlepool would help to ease the sting of cuts to services.

But at a Finance and Policy Committee meeting, Labour councillor Marjorie James, Manor House representative, proposed that all of the £196,000 be given to Neighbourhood Services for enforcement on issues such as fly-tipping, litter and dog-fouling to keep Hartlepool’s estates clean.

She said: “At this moment in time, HVDA could sustain themselves as they currently are until such time as Big Lottery funding becomes available next year.”

Coun James’ suggestion received a majority vote – wiping out the proposal of independent Seaton representative Councillor Paul Thompson, who mooted the idea that the spare cash be shared, with £30,000 given to HVDA, £30,000 to the Hartlepool Credit Union, and £136,000 towards enforcement, which he said “would keep everyone happy and see all of those services fully funded”.

Speaking after the meeting, HVDA manager Keith Bayley told the Mail: “To shun the request the way they did demonstrates they neither understand nor value the contribution that volunteers make to the life of the town.

“If we’d have got the money we could have re-employed a member of staff to work with, interview and support volunteers.

“We used to see about 600 people per year in the Volunteer Centre, half of whom would have been unemployed. About 300 of that 600 became volunteers, either setting up new services or replenishing volunteers in groups around the town.”

HVDA has brought in more than £7million into the town since it was set up 28 years ago, an average of around £250,000 each year.

It used to receive £68,000 annually from the council up until March last year when the cash-strapped local authority decided to cut all funding.

Council chief executive Gill Alexander said: “The Finance and Policy Committee considered a number of proposals for allocating this money and has decided to prioritise the concerns of residents regarding issues such as dog fouling, littering, fly-tipping and community safety.

“The Neighbourhood Services Committee will now consider a plan for making best use of this extra money and a further report will be considered by Full Council in due course.

“We do value the contribution of volunteers and acknowledge the important role they play in town life and it is important to note that the committee has pledged a commitment to provide in-kind support to HVDA to help it run a service for town organisations promoting issues such as access to funding and volunteering opportunities.”