Witney News - Grants support for voluntary sector

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Grants support for voluntary sector

West Oxfordshire District Council’s Cabinet has allocated nearly £275,000 of grants to provide support to local voluntary organisations.

The grants total £274,100 and have been earmarked after the Council agreed last month to maintain the grants available to the District’s voluntary sector during 2011/12, despite facing significant cuts of 13.75% (more than £750,000) in government grant funding, with a further 10.7% reduction to follow in 2012/13.

Cllr Richard Langridge, Cabinet Member for Local Economy and Communities, said: “We faced immense challenges when setting our budget for 2011/12 and did consider whether we would have to reduce the amount of grant funding available. However, a clear message was given that the Council wanted to maintain the overall grants pot for the next year to support the voluntary sector and give organisations time to investigate whether they can tap into other funding streams coming available, such as the Big Society Bank.

“Other local authorities are clawing back significantly on this kind of support, but our dedication to efficiency savings and determination to continue making savings wherever possible, shared working arrangements and prudent property investment, has meant that we are able to offer these grants for the next year.

“This shows our support and appreciation for voluntary organisations, which are vital to West Oxfordshire and many people who live here. We are, however, sending a clear message that the future is uncertain and the voluntary sector should be investigating other funding means wherever possible.”

The largest grant of £165,000 will go to West Oxfordshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau (WOCAB) which provides free, independent advice and information to people in need across the District. The Bureau has more than 80 volunteers who dealt with 18,866 enquiries in 2010.

WOCAB has experienced a significant increase in debt and housing-related enquiries during the recession. Between 2008-09 and 2009-10, debt-related enquiries rose by 48%, from 2,931 to 4,330 and housing-related enquiries by 47%, up from 972 to 1,424. Although there has not been such a large increase from 2009-10 to 2010-11, these types of enquiries have continued to rise over the past year.

Most of the grant funding, £113,000, will help WOCAB towards it ‘core work’, or running costs. The rest will help it to continue its specialist debt and housing advice work (£32,000) and its Rural Advice Project (£20,000), a home-visiting service for West Oxfordshire residents who would otherwise not be able to access its advice services.
The funding will also help WOCAB continue running educational money advice sessions, set up to help prevent people getting into debt and giving advice on budgeting and managing money.

WOCAB Manager Barbara Shaw said: “Our annual running costs are £400,000, so the grant from the Council makes up a significant proportion of this and without it we simply would not be able to continue running the service as it is. We would have had to reduce the opening hours.

“The demand on the service as a result of the recession has been significant and it is always a struggle to continue finding the money that is needed to keep going, but we work hard to source funding and also fundraise ourselves. The Council has been extremely supportive over the years and we understand the financial pressure that it has faced, so we are very, very grateful to receive this grant.”

Other organisations that will benefit from grants include:

Chipping Norton Theatre - £30,000
Wychwood Forest Project - £21,600
Cotswold Conservation Board - £12,000
Oxfordshire Touring Theatre - £9,500
Age UK - £5,000
Oxfordshire Woodland Project - £5,000
Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre - £5,000
BBOWT Local Wildlife Sites - £4,000
Oxfordshire Playing Fields Association - £3,500
West Ox Arts - £3,500
Lower Windrush Valley Project - £3,000
Oxfordshire Playbus - £2,250
Volunteer Link-Up - £2,000
Oxfordshire Play Association - £1,750
Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum - £1,000

The final decision on the level of grant to support the work of the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC) up to a maximum of £37,500 was delegated pending further clarification on the level of grant support from other agencies.

Smaller-scale, one-off Arts, Coaching and Heritage grants, with a total budget of £14,900, will be allocated later in the year.

Posted : 18/03/2011 11:52:39

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