Donations pour in for Portsmouth counselling hub after public appeal is launched

Off The Record staff, from left, Catherine Thomas, volunteer and administrator, Lorna Stringer, volunteer, Debbie Smith, volunteer and Colin Solly, volunteer and impact officer. 

Picture: Sarah Standing (161474-9176)

Off The Record staff, from left, Catherine Thomas, volunteer and administrator, Lorna Stringer, volunteer, Debbie Smith, volunteer and Colin Solly, volunteer and impact officer. Picture: Sarah Standing (161474-9176)

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CAMPAIGNERS have not given up hope of rescuing a counselling service for young people in Portsmouth.

A total of £1,200 has been donated by the public in the past 10 days to keep Off The Record (OTR) in the city after an online appeal for cash was launched.

This shows how highly valued the service is in Portsmouth. People just cannot understand – there is £475,000 sat aside to support the voluntary sector and yet the council won’t release £20,000 from it.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem leader

The initiative is being led by the Lib Dems, with city party leader and former council boss Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson coughing up £30 from his own pocket in an effort to help.

It comes after OTR was forced to close its Fratton branch two days before Christmas because funds to keep it going had dried up.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This shows how highly valued the service is in Portsmouth.

‘People just cannot understand – there is £475,000 sat aside to support the voluntary sector and yet the council won’t release £20,000 from it.

‘There is money to pay for this. It’s not a case of, “we don’t have the money’’.

‘The money is there, it’s just sat there doing nothing, and people just cannot understand why.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said his party’s attempts to get a cross-party group together to relax the rules on the fund – which Tory chiefs say is designed to help groups that will become self-sufficient in the long run – were dismissed.

OTR bosses said they had a last-minute £20,000 bid to the council to continue for the next 12 months turned down.

Tory public health boss Councillor Luke Stubbs said: ‘Since the Lib Dems left office, the aggregate reduction in spending we have had to deal with is £42m.

‘OTR wasn’t funded by the council even when the Lib Dem were in – they couldn’t afford the funding.

‘The idea the council is now awash with money is false.

‘We are still looking to see if we can work up a solution.’

OTR’s Havant hub is unaffected as it receives funding from other sources.

More than 10,000 people contacted OTR last year, with 881 new clients seeking help from the Portsmouth service.

To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/Off-The-Record1

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