Boost to coffers of worthy causes

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FUNDING of £150,000 is to be restored to Sheffield Council’s pot to help the city’s voluntary, community and religious groups over the coming year.

The authority was planning to reduce the amount of money it offers in grants from £2.9 million at present to £2.61 million during 2012/13 - a drop of 10 per cent.

But ruling Labour councillors have now changed their plans and propose to make a five per cent cut, meaning the pot will be £2.76 million - £150,000 more than expected.

Coun Mick Rooney, Sheffield Council cabinet member for communities, said: “The voluntary, community and faith sector do so much good work in the city and are close to so many people on a daily basis. That work cannot be overlooked.

“They help support some of the most vulnerable people in our society and provide respected and valued services by local people to local people.”

He added: “The grant aid budget is aimed solely at these groups and the council wants to preserve as much funding as possible.

“We had told voluntary, community and faith groups in the city last year to expect a cut in the grant pot, as we are facing difficult financial times.

“But we have worked hard to reform the budget making it more open, transparent and focused on the council’s key priorities. This has meant we can target funding to the areas of work and support we think will make the biggest difference to local people.”

Some 84 groups are currently bidding for a share of the grant aid funding next year.

The money is to support activities such as citizens’ advice services, support to people suffering domestic abuse, mental health problems, learning disabilities, boost learning opportunities and support work around homelessness.

The fund also supports lunch clubs for older citizens.

Among the groups which receive grant aid funding from Sheffield Council are the Northern Refugee Centre, Victim Support, Sharrow Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and Scoop Aid which helps lone parent families.

Sue James, director of operations at Voluntary Action Sheffield - an umbrella group for voluntary organisations around the city - said: “It is still a cut but we recognise the council is in a difficult position.

“The tough conditions have meant some groups such as Hillsborough Forum have already gone to the wall, and others are making redundancies, but we are pleased the council has worked hard to minimise the level of cuts.”

But she added: “Some groups receive separate income from the council and NHS for particular services and may face further cuts to that.”

The reduction in funding for 21012/13 follows a cut last April. The then Liberal Democrat council administration had proposed a 15 per cent cut in grant aid funding, which was reduced to 10 per cent after Labour won power.