Winchester Commits to the Voluntary Sector

Winchester City Council confirmed its commitment to the voluntary sector twice in one evening last week.

First of all, the Deputy Leader welcomed around 70 representatives of community, voluntary and other ‘not for profit’ organisations from around the Winchester District to an open meeting, held in partnership with Winchester Area Community Action (WACA), at Winchester Guildhall.  At the gathering, he firmly restated the value and importance of the sector in delivering services which brighten our lives and support the most vulnerable people.  He also committed Council support for helping the sector to make the most of a fast-changing environment at national and local level.

Later on, at a meeting of Full Council in the same building, City Councillors went on to confirm an allocation of over £727,000 (equivalent to around 10% of the Council Tax it generates) to grants programmes for the sector in 2012/13.

The open meeting, which was jointly hosted by Winchester Area Community Action – the body which is funded by the City Council to support and develop the sector – was well received.  Presentations summarised the changes and challenges facing local groups, ranging from the Government’s Localism agenda and the restructuring of public bodies such as the National Health Service to the City Council’s new ‘commissioning’ approach.  Delegates, who came from a wide range of charities, arts organisations, sports clubs and other backgrounds, were then asked to identify the support they most needed at this time, and to rate the current levels of provision.

Cllr John Cooper, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Communities, Safety and Public Health, commented,

At a time when unemployment is rising, benefits are being reduced and housing continues to be in short supply right across the Country, it is impossible to over-estimate the contribution being made by these organisations to care for and improve the lives of our residents.  I will do all I can to provide the right kind of support for our not-for-profit sector to ensure that they in turn can provide support for others.”

Laura Luff from Brendoncare, who run four care centres and three clubs in the Winchester District, said,

I found it a really useful afternoon and though it was great way to share information and encourage all of us within the voluntary sector to engage with WACA and the Council.”

The Council and WACA will be following up the meeting with an online survey to gather the views of even more voluntary groups, and WACA is seeking volunteers from the sector to work with them and the Council on the development of a strategy and action plan for the future.

Paul Williams, Chief Executive of WACA, stated,

Not only is society getting bigger, but so are contracts and delivery areas.  That’s why it is essential for voluntary and community organisations to work together effectively to do more of what they do best – serving their communities.”