Voluntary groups fear for future as funding is cut

Portsmouth City Council has cut grants to voluntary groups
Portsmouth City Council has cut grants to voluntary groups

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VOLUNTARY groups have seen their funding reduced as Portsmouth City Council cuts costs.

Some charitable organisations which receive annual grants will get less in the coming year and could face losing even more cash in the future.

The council’s Lib Dem cabinet member for resources, Cllr Hugh Mason, agreed yesterday to cut the funding awarded to the Portsmouth Mediation Service and three local wildlife groups.

Mary Traves is case co-ordinator for the mediation service, which provides free help in resolving neighbour disputes and has lost £1,000 from its £9,000 grant.

‘We are all finding it tough at the moment,’ she said. ‘It is not as bad for us as for others, but the problem is we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If you go to Fareham or Havant they don’t have this service any more, but we have been quite lucky in the past because the council has always supported us.’

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust saw a reduction in its grant, from £5,000 to £4,500.

The trust’s Solent reserves officer Jamie Marsh said it had come as a blow.

‘It will limit the amount we are able to do,’ he said. ‘We were hoping for more funding this year than last year, so it is very disappointing.’

Peter Eeles, chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch of Butterfly Conservation lost £100 – a third of the funding provided by the council.

‘It definitely has an impact,’ he said. ‘Maybe not on its own, but combined with a number of other funding cuts we’ve received it does paint a worrying picture. And our membership is going up so there’s no lack of interest, the reasons behind the cuts must be purely financial.’

Also affected by the reductions was the Hampshire Ornithological Society and the Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership which took a voluntary cut of £5,000.

Cllr Mason said it was likely further cuts would follow in years to come and, while he understood the concerns of voluntary groups, savings had to be made. He said: ‘I have to balance the need to protect the things which the council is doing for vulnerable people against the need of the voluntary sector and the needs of reducing the amount we have got in our budget.

‘These three things have to be somehow balanced, but the most important thing for me is to ensure that there is enough money to provide a good service to vulnerable young and elderly people in our community. So the voluntary sector, important and vital though it is, must take its share of the cuts.’