Northumberland County Council pauses community cash

Northumberland County Council is suspending its £100,000 annual Community Chest fund for groups in the county's west area

Northumberland County Council offices
Northumberland County Council offices

Money pulled from community projects by councillors will leave vulnerable adults and children socially excluded, protesters claim.

Northumberland County Council is suspending its £100,000 annual Community Chest fund for groups in the county’s west area.

Voluntary organisations in Tynedale with pending applications now face an uncertain future as the scheme is withdrawn while the council re-addresses what it perceives to be a ‘funding imbalance’ across the county.

Northumberland’s South East and North allocations of £100,000 each remain unaffected while the review is being carried out.

MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman, said the decision to withdraw money unfairly penalised the good work of his constituency’s voluntary sector. He said: “What Labour seem to be proposing is an absolutely scandalous move.

“It is shameful that they are looking to cut community funding in the west to shift extra funds to the south east, an area which already receives extra funding as it is.

“Places like Prudhoe, Hexham and Haltwhistle are really going to lose out if they get their way.”

The council’s deputy leader, Coun Dave Ledger, said while half the population of Northumberland lives in the south east, they are currently only entitled to a third of the money.

He said this imbalance had been brought to their attention on a number of occasions and the issue is now being looked at by officers.

Coun Ledger said: “We appreciate the community chest is a very popular source of funding for many communities around the county and funded projects have already brought a wide range of benefits to the area.

“We are hopeful for a quick resolution to this matter and look forward to assessing applications in the very near future.”

Coun Heather Cairns, the deputy leader of the county council’s Liberal Democrat party, said: “While it is reasonable to review how the Community Chest is allocated, it is absolutely not reasonable to jeopardise schemes that have already been put in place for this summer.

“This could leave a lot of young people, vulnerable people and socially excluded people with nothing to do this summer.”

Events like Haltwhistle Carnival have previously benefited from the scheme. Joanne Taylor, treasurer of the carnival, said the money they had received from the fund had been vital to the success of their event.

She said: “It’s been fantastic and extremely helpful in the past.

“The money went on a tent on carnival day which is good for the wet and sunny weather. We’ve applied at least three times for money and we would have been really stuck if it hadn’t been for that money.”

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