Westminster Council to cut voluntary sector grants by more than £1m

The Conservative-controlled council plans to make cuts from several budgets, including adults' and children's services

Big Ben in the heart of Westminster
Big Ben in the heart of Westminster

Westminster Council plans to cut more than £1m from the grants it gives to voluntary sector organisations over the next two years.

Figures released by the council's Labour group were confirmed today by a council spokeswoman.

The group said the figures showed there would be cuts by 2013 totalling £1,058,132, including £633,000 from its adult and community services grants budget and £425,000 from its children's services grants budget.

A total of £472,000 will be cut from the overall adult and community services grants budget in 2011/12, with a further £161,000 in cuts planned for 2012/13, the group said.

The 2011/12 cuts will include a 34 per cent cut in the arts and culture budget, amounting to a reduction of £169,000, as well as a 25 per cent reduction in the older people grants budget – a cut of £94,000. In addition, the adult and community services information and advice budget will be cut by 39 per cent in 2011/12, a reduction of £59,000.

A total of £300,000 will be cut from the children's services grants budget in 2011/12, with a further £125,000 cut planned for 2012/13.

But despite the cuts, the council planned to increase its budget for voluntary sector infrastructure by £80,000, the Labour group said.

Councillors are set to make a final decision on the budget for 2011/12 at a full council meeting on 2 March.

Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the council's Labour group, said the authority's decision to cut the voluntary grants budget was "hypocritical" because the council had previously said it wanted more services to be run by voluntary groups.

"Voluntary groups are the beating heart of the local community, but now Westminster's real big society has had more than £1m of support axed by the Conservatives," he said. "How can the Conservatives expect us to believe that their big society slogans are anything more than hot air when the council is cutting its support to voluntary groups?"

Bernard Collier, chief executive of Voluntary Action Westminster, said "substantial cuts" to Westminster's voluntary sector grants budget had been anticipated because of the financial problems faced by the authority.

"The change in the eligibility criteria means those most in need will lose support and, without support, vital social capital will be lost," he said.

Steve Summers, Westminster's cabinet member for communities, said in a statement that the council had to make some tough decisions.

He said the council had pledged to reduce waste and cut back-office costs in order to prioritise and protect the most vulnerable people in the borough.

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