Charities at risk after fallout from cuts exposed

Funding cuts have left Oxford charities fearing for their future after the City Council slashed funds by £250,000.

Some charities, including the Community Soup Kitchen, have lost all council funding.

The Archway Foundation, which relieves distress caused by loneliness, has lost a £25,000 contract from the Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust and a £5000 grant from the City Council. Their former annual budget was £75,000. University students have volunteered at Archway in the past.

A spokeswoman for the charity, with over 100 volunteers, said: “These cuts bring into question our long-term sustainability. In the meantime we have to concentrate on our existing users at the expense of reaching out to potential beneficiaries.” She felt chief responsibility lied with the Treasury rather than the Council.

One user of their services said: “If Archway ceases to exist I am pretty sure that I and many others will quickly go the same way.”

However, a spokesperson for Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) said: “We had a lengthy consultation process which decided that the best way to improve the wellbeing of mental health patients was via different services to what Archway were providing. We didn’t just cut their funding.”

The PCT encouraged Archway to merge with a bigger organisation but they chose not to tender for services after their contract expired on 7th March.

But the spokesperson confirmed the overall budget for the services, jointly allocated between the PCT and the County Council, had reduced between 2009 and 2011, although savings were “reinvested into the health service.”

Other charities affected by the City Council cuts include Donnington Doorstep Family Centre, which lost 50 percent of its grants. Oxfordshire Theatre Company, which provides entertainment to those without access to professional shows, lost 71.3 percent of its funding while the Oxford Playhouse lost £27,015 (52.3 percent). Oxfordshire Chinese Community Centre lost £31,703 of its previous £49,703.

Wadham Charities Officer Beth Hardwick described the cuts as “absolutely bizarre” and added: “When Oxford has one of the largest council estates in Europe, and similarly high figures of residents living under the poverty line or on the streets, it hardly seems embracing of the ‘big society ideal’ with enhanced social mobility to remove help from those most in need.”

Councillor Antonia Bance, a board member of Oxfordshire Stronger Communities, admitted the City Council will reduce spending over the next four years by £10m but has found enough money to increase the budget for housing advice, “which has helped mitigate some of the worst effects of the recession.”

Oxfordshire County Council, which is under Conservative rule, has announced a net increase of £327,000 in voluntary funding after allocating £600,000 to a Big Society Fund. This is in a similar vein as the Coalition’s £600m pot announced earlier this month. Funding cuts from central government mean that the County Council has seen a 1.9 percent drop in its spending power. The decrease for the City Council was 6.7 percent.

Bance continued: “This is not what any of us would have done given a choice but due to Central Government funding cuts we have had to significantly reduce our expenditure. We are proud of our strong record on assisting voluntary and community groups through our grants process and we are pleased that we are still able to help fund so many good causes in Oxford.”