Thousands of young people look likely to be among the hardest hit as children’s services face millions of pounds in cuts.
The effect of the cuts will be magnified as grants to community groups are reduced. As a result some may even have to close.
Children with disabilities are also likely to feel the effects as £2.5 million is taken out of the council’s children’s services budget alone. A separate grants programme is being cut by £715,000.
Some of the poorest people in Brighton and Hove are likely to be among the biggest losers on estates in places such as Whitehawk, Moulsecoomb, Hangleton and Mile Oak.
There are concerns that a side-effect of closing youth centres will be a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour. This will require more expensive council and public sector services at a time when spending is under pressure.
Voluntary sector leaders and council officials discussed the impact of the proposed cuts at a meeting this week of Brighton and Hove Connected – a committee of the city’s great and good.
Community leaders argue that Brighton and Hove City Council’s modest spending on grants and contracts with voluntary groups should be preserved.
The money is often matched by donations from charities and trusts outside the city, magnifying the value of every £1 spent by the council. Plus volunteers give up enormous amounts of their time for free, ensuring valuable services are provided at low cost.
The Brighton and Hove Connected meeting also heard that more children locally were suffering from mental health problems.
And a few days earlier the council said that it was planning to reduce the number of children’s centres from 12 to 8. These serve some of the more deprived parts of the city.
In the next financial year, starting in April, the council is expected to save £26 million as the government hands over less money to councils like Brighton and Hove. The shortfall – or funding gap – is expected to rise to £102 million in four years’ time.
After the Brighton and Hove Connected meeting Sally Polanski, from Brighton and Hove Community Works, which supports and represents charities and community groups in the area, spoke about the situation.
She said: “We know we are entering a period of up to six more years of public sector cuts.
“We need to build not just resilience but strength and the voluntary sector can help with that.
“The sector has the trust, the relationships and the understanding in our communities.
“For a relatively modest sum we can help the council meet its statutory obligations, protect the most vulnerable and bring in external money to the city.”
What the council spends
The council currently spends about £70 million on children’s services on top of the £170 million schools and education budget which is largely ringfenced. Money that is ringfenced must be spent in the way that the law or the government dictates.
This is out of a total council budget of about £780 million, roughly half of which is ringfenced, much of it for schools and housing.
What the council’s budget papers say
“£150,000 reduction in funds for discretionary grants. At the 2014 Budget Council a saving of £165,000 was taken from the discretionary grants programme but deferred until 2015-16. These two savings total £315,000 and will take effect from April 2015.
“The current three-year grant programme is £1.3 million and supports 69 organisations. The annual grants programme is £400,000 and supports more than 140 local organisations. Many of these organisations support preventative services that can lower demand on statutory services. Reductions in their funding could impact on other services and council outcomes around empowerment, inclusion and tackling disadvantage.
“Ending the £400,000 commissioned contract for the delivery of universal youth work with community and voluntary sector youth work organisations. Provision is currently delivered by eight organisations forming the Brighton and Hove Youth Collective led by Impact Initiatives.”
Who will be affected?
- Brighton Youth Centre
- Crew Club
- Deans Youth Project
- Hangleton and Knoll Project
- Trust for Developing Communities
- YMCA Downslink Group
- Young People’s Centre
Three other charities expected to lose funding are