County writes back to voluntary groups
VOLUNTARY groups across Suffolk have been sent a second letter from the county council – this time telling them how important they are to the future of services.
Earlier this week letters arrived at voluntary groups across the county warning that they faced budget cuts of 10 to 20% next year as a result of government grant reduction.
These came just as the county was preparing to involve the voluntary sector in delivering its services as part of the New Strategic Direction.
Now the second letter, signed like the first by interim directors Simon White and Anna McCreadie, emphasises the importance of the voluntary sector.
It says: “Our original letter was sent as part of the requirement of the Compact to advise you of a risk of a potential reduction in funding.
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“You will be aware that the Council is facing severe funding cuts over the coming years and no area will escape scrutiny – including funding to the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS).
“However we would like to make it clear that any new services taken on by the VCS as part of the new strategic direction will have an appropriate level of funding agreed in partnership.
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“This was implicit within our original letter.
Engagement with the voluntary sector is a core part of the Council’s strategic direction and we will continue to work closely with our voluntary sector partners.
“As you know we are continually talking with you, and will continue to do so in order jointly to develop the way ahead for the future.”
Jonathan Moore from the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO) felt the second letter seemed to accept that the first had failed to address the concerns of his members.
“They can say that increased funding was implicit in the first letter – but I’m not sure everyone understood that and certainly the tone of the letter caused concern.
“At a time like this, it is necessary for the county to take the voluntary sector with it and explain what it is looking for.”
Mr Moore said a conference of voluntary organisations was now being organised to tell them how the New Strategic Direction would affect them in future years.
“That is very welcome,” he said. “But one does ask why they had not organised that before now.”
County councillor with responsibility for children and young people said organisations should be aware they would be funded for any additional work they took on for the council.
In a letter to the EADT he said: “What needs to be made clear is that any new or extra services that the voluntary sector provides on behalf of Suffolk County Council as part of our new way of working, will be additionally funded. “The different organisations are not being asked to deliver new services within their current funding.
“We at Suffolk County Council value all our voluntary organisations.
“They are key to the council’s plans to ensure that, during this time of significant budget cuts from central Government, the people of Suffolk still have the services they want and need.”