Council grants for local charities could be cut

Council grants for local charities could be cut

Published by The Wessex FM News Team at 8:31am 2nd November 2019.

Dorset Council is considering cutting grants to local charities and voluntary organisations.

A report to Cabinet on Tuesday will suggest that only the Citizens Advice Bureau funding is likely to be guaranteed, for now - but at a standstill figure, which represents a cut in real terms.

Councillors are being asked to back a consultation exercise on a range of grant options for the future, all of which seek to do away with wide-ranging variations in grants by previous councils.

The focus of the report is that common approach across the county and a preference for charities and other organisations which ‘support’ council services.

Photo of Dorset County Hall night sign

Some councillors fear that this may mean cuts to arts and cultural organisations, a view expressed last week by Dorchester councillor Stella Jones.

The largest current arts and culture grants include:

  • £231,000 to three museums in Dorchester, Bridport and Wimborne 
  • £127,000 to the Arts Development Company
  • £66,300 to Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
pound coins money

The report envisages what it describes as ‘modest savings’ in the 2021/21 grants budget - possibly around £160,000, depending on which approach is finally chosen.

The authority spends almost £2m now on grants to ‘outside’ organisations –  honouring previous commitments when it came into being in April this year for only a year.

Councillors are being told that the previous spending was not geographically or proportional in any other way  – with some areas receiving significantly more than others, which has led to inequality across the Dorset Council area. For example:

  • West Dorset District Council, in its final weeks, approved grants totalling approximately £600,000 for 2019/20 in its area – the highest of any of the districts
  • While North Dorset District Council approved grants totalling approximately £70,000 for 2019/20 for its area – the lowest of the districts

Options likely to go out for consultation on future grants include:

  • ‘no change’
  • maintaining the level of funding but changing the criteria
  • cutting all grants, apart from the £550,000 to the CAB, by 10%.
  • A final decision is expected to be made in the New Year.

By Trevor Bevins, local democracy reporter