SOLIHULL council has scrapped a £500,000 fund used to support local charities.
A proposal put forward by Solihull council officers described the fund as ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and creating problems with how small funds to voluntary organisations are administered.
Officers say the vast majority of the fund was tied up in long-term contracts and applications for small grants from other organisations had declined in recent years.
A council officers report states: “It is unsatisfactory for contracted services to be funded via a small grants fund and this proposal addresses this problem.”
It also states the cut will help the council’s adult care and support directorate reach its savings target.
But Green party councillor Max McLoughlin said he suspects the intention is simply to making more annual savings amid ongoing heavy council cuts.
He said that when he asked the council what overall savings would be made, no figure was given.
Coun McLoughlin said: “There is a genuine need for this (fund).
“We’re expecting in Solihull the voluntary sector to be doing far more of what once would have been the responsibility of the local council.
“They said they are dissolving the mechanism for distributing that money, but they haven’t said where the money will be going.
“That sector is going to be so much more important with what’s going on with adult social care and what’s going on in housing.”
In response to the criticism, councillor Karen Grinsell, cabinet member for adult social care and health, who controls the vast majority of the axed fund, said: “We continue to value and support the work of the voluntary and community sector in Solihull and their impact on improving lives and wellbeing for the people of Solihull.
“The Community Initiative Fund (CIF) was a discretionary fund established by the council.
“The decision was taken to dissolve these discretionary arrangements and move these monies to more appropriate budget holders.
“This decision will not have any impact on the current 2017-18 spending plans. The dissolution of the CIF does not change any of the contracts associated with the budgets.
“It is just an administrative change.”
Dave Pilwell, the chief executive of Solihull Sustain, which supports development services for Solihull’s voluntary sector, told the Observer about the importance of the CIF to Solihull and said: “The money that has been channeled through the CIF into the voluntary and community sector has generated significant benefit for citizens of the borough.
“Citizens Advice Bureau do a fantastic job and Age UK do a fantastic job.
“And my hope is the voluntary sector and the council can continue to work together.”
Janet Down, recently awarded an MBE for her work with charity organisation ‘Solihull Life Opportunities’, commented: “We are very dissapointed the council has decided to dissolve this fund.
“I can understand the council having to make cuts, but taking money away from community groups is missing the point.”
Solihull Life Opportunities’ is a charity that works with adults with learning disabilities and is affiliated with Sustain Solihull.
She added: “I just worry about what will happen to the community sector – an increase in crime? Alcohol abuse? Young people? Disabled people?
“Will they regret this decision in the long run?
“We calculated that Solihull Life Opportunities brought in £7million to the borough in the last 17 years.
“The impact will be felt by the most vulnerable and most needy of our borough.
“Small investments they make to community groups then bring in much more investment into the borough.
She referred to a report compiled in May this year that calculated the council investment’s ‘social return’.
It found that for every pound of subscriptions, contract and volunteer time, there was between 12 and 14 times as much value created for members, parents/carers and public systems.