Delay on £100,000 children’s scheme grant over funding concerns from Hartlepool councillors

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Councillors moved to delay making a decision on granting £100,000 to help a group provide children’s activities in the town due to funding concerns within the council.

Hartlepool Borough Council children’s services committee were due to decide on whether to provide £100,000 to extend its Children’s 5-19 Activities Grant for a further 12 months.

The money would support the continuance of programmes in Hartlepool delivered by the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Consortium for 2019/20.

The consortium, in partnership with the local authority, is targeting the development of the Young People’s Foundation, an organisation designed to work on behalf of the VCS to bring grant funding into Hartlepool.

However making a final decision has been delayed by the committee for further talks due to the financial difficulties facing the council, which include having to use its reserves to help combat a £6million deficit next year.

Coun Marjorie James said: “My understanding is the monies we’ve been utilising [for the activities grant] is all coming from the child family poverty support fund we have within the council. My understanding is there is probably about £15/16,000 sat in that pot, that’s it.

“We’re going to be put in a position again where we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul because we’ve got to find additional money.

“We’ve been cut, year on year. I’m not saying that’s impossible but it’s going to be quite a reach to get to £100,000, it’s just not there.

“It’s not an easy thing to be saying, but we just haven’t got that money.”

She also raised offering a grant of £50,000 and trying to find someone in the council to help submit bids for additional funding.

However members of the consortium said they would have to go back and check the finances as it could result in a reduced service.

Council bosses had several years ago moved to cease commissioning the grant to provide £320,000 savings, deciding to implement a phased reduction with £160,000 provided in 2017/18.

However the grant has twice been given six month extensions to help fund activities for children.

Coun Shane Moore said: “We appreciate the environment out there for getting funding but it’s tough for a local authority because our money has been cut drastically.

“I have to ask myself if this is the 3rd time, is there going to be a 4th or a 5th time and where is the money that we’re expected to give, that’s what concerns me.

“It’s an awful situation to be in. The reality is we don’t have the money to provide the services at the moment, I wish we did, but we are where we are.”

Three representatives of the VCS Consortium attended the meeting explaining why, although they have secured some grants so far, they need more funding to put on the activities.

Sacha Bedding, from The Wharton Trust, on behalf of the consortium, said: “We’ve secured a foundation in terms of delivering what we all really want, and that’s children having activities.

“What we haven’t been able to secure is that element of what the children would see and what the young people would see. But we’ve got the platform in place from which that could happen.

“Why we’re here is because 12 months ago there was an aspiration we wouldn’t need to be here, but things happen, things don’t move as fast, we’re working collectively as strong as we can to address that.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service