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Council changes threatens future of Winchester Area Community Action
7:00am Thursday 5th December 2013 in News
THE future of Winchester Area Community Action is uncertain after city councillors agreed to change the way it is funded.
The Cabinet yesterday approved stopping its annual grant and instead introduce a new commissioned service for two years starting in spring 2014.
Fears were raised that this will destabilise WACA which provides many services including Shopmobility, Dial a Ride, RASAC rape counselling service and supports many charities.
Trevor Lewis, the new chairman of WACA, told the Cabinet: “It would be a significant challenge. The big risk is that if WACA was destabilised the support for the voluntary sector would also be destabilised.”
To save money, WACA is considering relocating from the city council offices in Colebrook Street to a cheaper base.
Deputy council leader Rob Humby said WACA had done an excellent job but added that the world has changed.
“This is not driven by the desire to save money but the desire to make the best use of diminishing resources to provide the right services at the right prices in the right way at the right time,” he said.
Its current annual grant is £84,500, but reducing down to a proposed £50,000 for the next two years. There will be a transition payment of £21,125 in 2014-15.
Lib Dem leader Kelsie Learney said she supported the commissioning approach but warned: “I’m concerned about testing the market. The danger is you discover things are more expensive than you thought or there are unintended consequences of the actions you are taking.”
She said the running of children’s centres was now done by a national charity and "I have received a huge amount of negative comments.
“We want to build up local services. The danger is you start to diminish them. WACA provide a flexible service.”
Cllr Ian Tait said the danger was by undermining WACA the council could end up spending more with alternative providers. “Let us value WACA for the excellent organisation that it is and the support it gives to the community sector.”
County councillor Jackie Porter said the future of WACA was now in doubt.
Cllr Tony Coates, a member of cabinet, went against his colleagues to vote against the change.
“If WACA is destabilised we are going to lose the benefit of it running thing like the domestic violence forum, the supported housing panel. We should be putting food into local mouths not letting these contracts go elsewhere. I cannot support the recommendation.”
Chief executive Simon Eden left the room during the discussion after declaring an interest that he is a friend of Paul Williams, WACA chief executive.
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