How to fund Big Society

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AS the screw tightens on public finances, the search is on for new sources of funding to keep the region’s community and charitable organisations making their increasingly vital contributions. But sometimes it helps to look to the past to find ways of helping the future prosper.

And that is the case with Sheffield-based health care provider Westfield Health which has just announced that it has handed out no less than £10 million to worthy causes over the last 15 years.

This is a tremendous record and one of which the company is justly proud. It is more than that, though. It is a shining example of how other businesses can make a mark in their communities and help people who are struggling in the challenging economic era through which we are living.

And there has rarely been a more pressing moment for this to happen, for the Charitable Aid Foundation has carried out research which shows that more than 40 per cent of charities have seen a drop in the contributions they receive in corporate donations.

If the Big Society is to step into the widening breach left as the public sector is shrunk from beneath its feet, then surely this is one way forward.

False economy to avoid maintenance

THE much-delayed private finance scheme to resurface Sheffield’s roads and footpaths cannot come too soon for some motorists – while for others it is already too late. For they are counting the cost of damage to their vehicles caused by the appalling and worsening state of the city’s roads.

Now it is estimated that the city council has faced a compensation and legal fees bill of £1,230,000 after people or vehicles were harmed or damaged on roads and pavements across Sheffield.

This is money taken from the public purse which is under ever-increasing pressure as cutbacks begin to take hold.

If ever there was an example of why it is a false economy to leave maintenance for tomorrow, this is it. Surely this cost could have been avoided.

Value for money

STEEP increases in the cost of renting an allotment from Sheffield City Council may set some alarm bells ringing. But we believe that they still represent good value for money. Charges will rise to £37.90 from April and may increase to between £50 and £100 by 2013/14. However this is still less than £2 a week for the largest plot and, considering the pleasure and rewards gained from tending an allotment, represent a good investment.