A Better Vision For Derby’s Voluntary Sector

February 16, 2016 12:15 PM
By Cllr Ruth Skelton

We all know that money is tight and that central government funds to councils are being cut. But our Labour council's cuts funding to the voluntary and community sector are a backward step and counterproductive. The services the sector provides help people stay well enough that they don't end up needing services from the Council or NHS. Because of these cuts, we will soon find there is more pressure - and more cost to the Council - on the services it must provide by law.

It is in the Council's own interests that the voluntary sector thrives. Yet Derby Labour seem set to hugely cut voluntary groups. It's one thing to cut the grants of service providers. It's quite another to cut the grant to an organisation that helps those same organisations to find alternative sources of funding.

There is a better way though.

The Council is moving away from providing services beyond the legal minimum. So the voluntary and community sector will have to take on more. To do this they need to be able to access support to grow. This might be help finding more volunteers, training those volunteers or sourcing funding. They are currently getting this vital support from Community Action Derby. If we are going to give voluntary organisations a chance of surviving and filling the gaps caused by Labour's cuts, Community Action needs to be able to them help.

The council can afford this by making just a few small changes. Firstly they can reduce the number of Cabinet members from 9 down to 7. The Council Cabinet worked perfectly well with only 7 members between May 2008 and May 2010. Now that the Council is cutting so many services, the services some Cabinet members' are responsible for will soon be gone. As the workload goes down so should the numbers of Cabinet members. This will save £30,230 per year.

Secondly the council can cut how much is spent on letters. The council have recently been writing to everyone who signs a petition. We would go back to only writing to the petition author. Members of the public tell us they see sending the same letter to everyone who signed as wasteful - especially when one household receives the same letter many times. We would also cut the amount councillors can spend on letters etc. sent out on their behalf by the Council from £150 to £50 per year.

Neither of these changes would hurt Derby residents. But we need voluntary groups all the more to cover the gaps from council cuts. And these simple changes would let Community Action continue to support Derby's voluntary and community sector to do their vital work.