Redditch Conservatives, as the party in political control of Redditch Borough Council, is committed to the voluntary and community sector in Redditch, which does fantastic work for the people of our Borough.
It is true the long term finances of Redditch Borough Council must be secured, which is under a Section 24 notice following years of failures to take tough decisions at the political level. One of those tough decisions was how to reconcile the fact that the £15,000 budget for concessionary rents was overrunning by £82,000 per year. This is not a sustainable way to give political leadership to a council and we as the Conservative group of Councillors must, and will, put this right.
However, what we Conservative Councillors will not do is abandon the voluntary and community sector during these changes which is why we are proposing transitional arrangements to support voluntary and community sector organisations through the changes that removal the concessionary rents scheme will involve.
Beyond these transitional arrangements, what does the future look like? Will there be a replacement scheme that will support voluntary and community sector organisations?
The answer to this is yes, we hope so if the council supports our ideas for new schemes. In order to bring forward new schemes the Conservative administration, working with the council’s talented professional officers, has to first secure the medium-term finances of the council so it is clear how much money is left to put into new schemes.
It’s also the case that the council’s current schemes do not tend to attract support from the County Council or Government to help maintain them because of how they were designed, sometimes decades ago.
The Conservative administration believes we need a new set of schemes to bring the Council into the modern age in how it supports our community organisations. These new schemes – with the additional funding they can attract, and if designed and provided well – may well result in additional money being available to VCS groups, not less.
With better schemes in place, unlocking capital to enable groups to invest in growth and deliver more services there could be a bright future for the voluntary and community sector groups that support the most vulnerable people across our Borough. The Conservatives are committed to these new schemes, but in order to bring them forward, we must first stop the existing schemes, such as the one that sees groups get up to 70% discount on their property rental for some groups.
The new schemes, if supported by the council, are ones we intend to be designed in partnership with the sector as much as possible and will be designed to attract match funding and other streams of support from outside, including businesses. They will focus on outcomes and that means for every person a community group helps under the council’s new schemes the more funding they will be able to access.
We believe that if social problems are to be tackled effectively, we need a voluntary and community sector that has sustainable revenues and investment to innovate and grow their services so that more people across Redditch can be helped.
We recognise that we as Councillors need to take the VCS groups in Redditch with us on this journey of policy change into a better and brighter future, one that is sustainable for the council but also for the VCS groups we will support.
Therefore, we have requested the council pauses the progress of the changes to the concessionary rents schemes until December so the council and VCS groups have time to understand more about the alternative arrangements we intend to put in place, and so they have time to help us shape these future alternative arrangements.
This pause is because we have listened, and are listening to our voluntary and community sector leaders, and we recognise that change always brings a level of anxiety. We hope that by pausing these changes to allow a period of reflection, communication and interaction we will be able to alleviate the concerns of the community and demonstrate that we are listening and are keen to work together.