Suffolk voluntary groups are ready to expand roles

VOLUNTARY groups and charities are ready to take on a larger role in Suffolk life – but have warned Endeavour House bosses not to take them for granted.

The voluntary groups and 'third sector' bodies are at the heart of Suffolk County Council's aim of divesting services away from its direct control.

The first ever Suffolk Voluntary and Community Sector Congress this week discussed the future shape of services across the county.

One of more than 100 delegates there was Bud Simpkin, from the Young Suffolk group, and he was optimistic that the changes could be a big boost for the voluntary sector.

He said later: 'The feeling is that this is a major opportunity for this sector and we want to play an active role in developing county services.'

He said many services now provided by the county council had their origins in philanthropic ventures a century or more ago – so some of the work would be, in effect, returning to old ways of working.

'But it will take time to get things right and it will not be possible for the county to change the way they provide services overnight,' he said.

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The congress also warned against the temptation for the county to see divestment as purely a cost-cutting exercise.

In a statement, it said: 'Don't make assumptions and don't take us for granted – our work needs proper resourcing and real recognition of the powerful way we connect with communities, especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged.'

Suffolk County Council deputy leader Jane Storey said she was looking forward to working with the voluntary groups more closely.

She said: 'I am delighted at their positive reaction to our proposals. I am sure we will be able to work together closely in the future and will be working with them to see how that can be done.

'Our proposals are all about ensuring that the people of Suffolk continue to get very good services despite huge cuts in Government funding.'

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