Funding cuts puts charity-supporting group ‘at risk’

Arun Civic Centre in Littlehampton, the headquarters of Arun District Council
Arun Civic Centre in Littlehampton, the headquarters of Arun District Council

Funding cuts will put the future of a charity-supporting organisation ‘at risk’, its chairman has warned.

Arun District Council’s support to Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester (VAAC) will be cut by 20 per cent, following a decision by cabinet members.

The cut represents a further blow for the organisation, already feeling the pinch from a reduction in its West Sussex County Council grant by a fifth.

Tony Sneller, chairman of VAAC, said: “To mitigate the impact of this further cut we will have to revise our services and dig even deeper into our reserves. The holding of reserves is good practice encouraged by the Charity Commission but there will come a point where we will no longer have sufficient reserves to plug the increasing hole in our budgets.

“At this point the future of our organisation will be at risk.”

Arun currently contributes £60,950 per year to VAAC, representing one of the key funding streams.

The group supports more than 390 organisations, from finding funding to helping recruit volunteers.

Figures for the first half of 2016 reported 152 volunteers were recruited and £1.5million raised for voluntary organisations in the area.

But both cabinet members and councillors part of the overview select committee argued it was ‘difficult to quantify’ the benefit of Arun’s support – and how responsible VAAC was for the headline figures.

Speaking at cabinet this month, councillor Terry Chapman said he had previously asked VAAC about how effectiveness was measured and not received a clear answer.

Councillor Trevor Bence, meanwhile, said free use of Bersted Park community centre had been underutilised by VAAC.

Mr Sneller said VAAC was frustrated by Mr Chapman’s remarks, adding the organisation presented significant information and quarterly reports to aid accountability.

Arun’s contribution will fall to £48,760 from April 2017 – in line with the level of reduction from county.

The cabinet’s decision mirrored the recommendation by the overview select committee.

Liberal Democrat Dr James Walsh spoke against the cut at overview select. His proposal for a lesser reduction, seconded by Tory Barbara Oakley, was lost. Mr Sneller said: “The VAAC trustees will do all we can to minimise the negative impact on our members and we are grateful to our staff and volunteers for their dedication and commitment to our many members, especially at this difficult time.”

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Clarification: An earlier version of the story attributed Mr Sneller’s last comment to Dr James Walsh. We are happy to clarify this.