Cuts campaigners come out in force in Dagenham

Campaigners came out in force to oppose cuts in voluntary sector grants following the council’s fresh budget proposals.

Some 50 protesters, many carrying placards, turned up at the select committee meeting on Wednesday (October 31), to stand against further attacks on the volunteering infrastructure.

They said the cuts to voluntary services will create added strain on groups and will only see more people come to them for help following cutbacks in other council-run services.

Carl Blackburn, chief executive of the Ripple Centre, said on the night: “We are here to try to convince them to change their minds.

“Basically the sector provides local services that will be affected. We know they have got a difficult task to set a budget but actually our services are much more cost-effective.

“By not cutting us we can help them make more savings in other ways.”

Ted Parker, chairman of the Council for Voluntary Services board of trustees, said: “Taking away the infrastructure will minimise the ability of the voluntary sector to step in and actually help people.”

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The safer and stronger community select committee’s role is to support or to rebuff proposals that look to find �23million of cuts.

This figure is on top of February’s cutbacks for the years 2013 to 2015, which totalled �12million.

The committee recommended savings of �110,000 through a reduction in grants to the voluntary and community sector, although this was brought down from �120,000 in an amended proposal by deputy council leader Rocky Gill.

Included in the plan was a suggestion that the Ripple Centre in Barking, which is managed by CVS, could revert to the council if the charitable organisation struggled to maintain it.

Mr Blackburn said: “If by cutting our funding we then cannot survive — and there’s a risk of course – the council wouldn’t necessarily take the building back.

“They were given two million in external funding (to renovate the former community hall) on the basis of a community run building.

“If they are thinking of taking it back then they would have to pay back the two million.”

A council spkeswoman said: “We think it highly unlikely that the proposed reduction of funding for the CVS will mean that the organisation becomes unviable and indeed the Ripple Centre offers the CVS an opportunity to generate more income.

“Should the CVS no longer wish or feel able to manage the Ripple Centre then the lease allows for an assignment to another voluntary sector organisation provided that the Council and the Big Lottery consent.

“The Council has no desire to take the building back – it was set up as a resource for the voluntary sector – and as such the Council will support the continuation of the Ripple Centre as a voluntary sector resource where it is able to.”

There will be four more select committee meetings to discuss the cutbacks. The next will be the children’s services select committee meeting at 6pm on Tuesday, November 6, in the Civic Centre, Dagenham.

The next meeting of the safer and stronger select committee will be on December 11 at 6pm in the Civic Centre, Dagenham.