U-turn over plans to axe £57,000 in funding to refuge

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CUTS will no longer be made to a women’s refuge thanks to pressure applied over the controversial proposal.

Portsmouth City Council’s Conservative administration had considered taking away the £57,000 a year it gives the city service, which supports victims of domestic abuse.

It would have meant the refuge would have had to remove four of the 16 beds it provides for clients who are in danger and need a safe place to stay.

But Councillor Donna Jones, Tory council leader, has decided to protect the refuge, and will look to make the saving in another area of the council’s health and social care portfolio.

Cllr Jones said: ‘The £57,000 a year cut to the women’s refuge is coming out of the budget.

‘The whole point of putting out our budget proposals for a month before the council meeting on December 9 about the budget was to give the public an opportunity to feed back their ideas and concerns they may have.

‘We have listened carefully to what people have had to say and have gone back and revisited certain areas, including in particular the women’s refuge.

‘I am pleased to say we will not take away the £57,000 to the refuge and the money to replace that is coming from other services.’

A saving will still need to be made to ensure the council claws back £13.1m next year in order to balance its budget.

Ukip Councillor Julie Swan, who raised issues in the city surrounding domestic violence at the latest meeting of the full council, said it was a relief.

‘I am over the moon,’ she said. ‘The refuge helps not only women in Portsmouth, but nationally as well.

‘Domestic violence is such an emotive issue and affects so many people.’

Shonagh Dillon, chief executive of Aurora New Dawn, which works with victims of domestic and sexual violence in Hampshire, said: ‘Refuges are a lifeline for women and children, and although we can do a lot in the community it’s really important communities like Portsmouth retain their refuge provision.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said he called the refuge this week and was surprised to hear no-one had been in touch about the proposed cuts: ‘It was a very stupid suggestion to have made in the first place, but I am glad our pressure has paid off,’ he said.