The borough’s voluntary sector meets next week and is laying down a challenge to newly-elected Mayor Jason Perry to provide a proper framework that will allow the borough’s volunteers and carers to meet the growing demands for their help.
The meeting of the Croydon Voluntary Sector Alliance will see the launch of the Croydon Voluntary and Community Service Manifesto, which charities and voluntary groups are hoping will shape the Mayor’s funding decisions over the course of the next four years.
Steve Phaure, the chief exec of Croydon Voluntary Action, the council-funded agency that co-ordinates much of the activity of the sector, said, “After going flat out during the pandemic, Croydon’s voluntary sector has recognised the scale of the challenge presented by the cost-of-living crisis.
“We share a sense of urgency with Mayor Perry in looking for quick wins but also long-term strategies to deal with the poverty crisis, not to mention knife-crime and the mental health epidemic.”
Until its financial collapse in 2020, the council provided around £3million per year in funding to assist up to 200 voluntary and community not-for-profit groups, including subsidies and other benefits such as access to lower-cost office space and wider support and advice.
But it is that Community Fund which has been under increasing pressure since the council was forced to declare itself effectively bankrupt in November 2020.
Phaure says that he will begin discussions with the council over the coming weeks to agree a process for reviewing progress against the pledges in the manifesto.
Phaure appears to accept that, given the council’s financial position, charities and voluntary groups will need to be what he describes as “even more enterprising” in attracting funding from other sources, but he also says, “In the short-term the council can support voluntary groups on the frontline by protecting the sector’s budgets, rent subsidies and discretionary rate relief.”
Andy Stranack, Mayor Perry’s cabinet member for communities, will be attending the meeting, on Thursday, July 21, when Phaure says, “We look forward to some details from him on how this council, under Mayor Perry, can support Croydon’s VCS to do what it does best – in helping individuals and whole communities to reach their full potential.”
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The VS Manifesto is an excellent document, and well worth a careful read!
I think that one thing the Mayor can do IMMEDIATELY is to offer thousands of vacant newly-built flats to the homeless of Croydon. The Council can certainly afford to provide the services (water, power, building management) for those flats, and they may even be able to fund nominal rental payment to the building owners … but if they can’t then the Mayor should set up a Mayor’s Fund and ask for voluntary donations.
It may even be that the various VS groups can provide jobs (maintenance and support to those blocks of flats) to their ‘clients’ which would be paid out of that same fund.
I believe that Croydon is now experiencing a massive (and permanent) over-supply of homes which will become derelict and dangerous unless they are occupied. Let’s use the assets in the Borough to resolve at least some of the problems that the VS are faced with!