Vital grants scheme could be next victim of spending cuts


Plans to scrap a London-wide grants programme could have “devastating” consequences for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs), say campaigners.

London Councils (LC) – the organisation representing the capital’s 33 local authorities – is considering scrapping its grants programme, set up more than 20 years ago to address “social issues of London-wide significance”.

Instead, the £28.4 million-a-year budget would be returned to individual councils, all of which are likely to be facing major cuts in government funding this autumn.

The scheme funds vital services – such as expert advice, information and advocacy – provided by some of the capital’s leading DDPOs, including Inclusion London, Disability Law Service and Transport for All.

Funding is provided over four years, but LC is now warning charities it can only guarantee funding until March 2011.

Minutes from LC’s grants committee make it clear that the huge government spending cuts expected from the Treasury’s spending review in October are a major factor behind the proposals.

But a report to the committee warns that stopping all funding for the scheme could have “significant reputational and potentially legal consequences” for LC.

Another option is for funding to be gradually cut back as the four-year grants “come to their natural end of life” over the next three years. LC could also continue to fund London-wide services, with councils funding local services.

Inclusion London warned that scrapping the programme could force the closure of some DDPOs, while any cuts “would be devastating for Deaf and disabled Londoners – coming just at a time when disabled people face cuts in services, jobs and benefits and when they need DDPOs”.

Disability Law Service (DLS) said the scheme was a “valued and vital funder and supporter of user-led disabled people’s organisations working pan-London”.

A DLS spokeswoman said: “It would be very sad if any cuts in London Councils funding resulted in reduction or closure of such services, as it is unlikely that it would be possible to fund individual services of this kind in each borough, and at this time disabled people need advice, information, advocacy and support more than ever.”

The London Voluntary Service Council said the “repatriation” of funding to local authorities would essentially be a “cut” in grants because councils were under such “severe financial pressure”.

A London Councils spokeswoman said: “We are still at the very early stages of the review but should boroughs end up retaining any of the money they give to the pan-London scheme, it would be up to them how they should spend the money at a local level.”

She said a consultation on the proposals would be launched “in the next few days”.

2 September 2010

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