Cuts threatening charities - Suffolk survey claims

ONE in three voluntary groups in Suffolk say funding cuts are threatening their existence, a new survey has revealed.

The news was described as 'worrying' by charity sector chiefs last night, who believe that Suffolk County Council's plans to off-load some of its functions onto charities could now be scuppered.

The findings, released by The Suffolk Congress Group, show that more than a third – 35pc – of voluntary groups in the county feel they face a challenge to survive.

Three out of every ten said the impact of spending cuts would result in a reduced level of services and a reduction in members of staff.

The research also revealed that half of the voluntary and community sector groups expect their income to decrease.

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Jonathan Moore, chief executive of the Suffolk Association of Voluntary Organisations (SAVO), said: 'The findings are very worrying.

'Across Suffolk there are a number of very small organisations who rely on the general public for support – but the public is feeling the pinch right now.

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'It's going to be a case of months rather than years before a number of closures happen, and it could have a devastating effect.

'The impact could be considerable for older people in the county who rely on charities for day care or respite support.'

The findings have also placed a question-mark over Suffolk County Council's plans to divest services such as country parks and libraries to voluntary groups.

These proposals, labelled the New Strategic Direction (NSD), are part of the council's plans to save more than �40million this year.

Mr Moore added: 'In terms of the NSD, there is a danger that voluntary group's capacities to help may have dissipated.

'However, we are putting through a variety of ideas over how the council could go about it.

'We're not politicians – we can't tell the council what to do – but we don't want to see services completely destroyed.'

Mark Bee, the new leader of Suffolk County Council, said: 'We recognise the fantastic work carried out by the voluntary sector in Suffolk and don't want to see this go to waste. We have to work together to strike a balance.

'The NSD is feasible and we're looking to do everything we can to help groups to take on added responsibilities.'

Daphne Savage, the Chief Executive of the charity Age UK Suffolk, said: 'I'm confident we can survive but our quantity of services may be reduced.

'We have to find �120,000 worth of cuts this year and another �120,000 the year after. It's been tough and the future is worrying.'

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