Council element of The Friary funding to end next year

The Friary in West Bridgford

The part of funding that The Friary centre receives from Nottinghamshire County Council will end from March next year, it has been announced.

The Friary drop-in centre is a West Bridgford-based charity which provides an ad-hoc service for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

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Nottinghamshire County Council today agreed to end funding for the programme in April next year after funding the charity since 2013, but has said it will work with the charity to try to find alternative funding.

Rushcliffe Labour condemned the Conservative-led council’s decision, calling it ‘cruel and totally unacceptable’.

The charity has seen its statutory funding cut from £130,000 in 2011 to £35,000, while being faced with a sharp rise in demand.

The funding, worth £17,884 a year, was due to end at the end of this month, but the council agreed today to extend this by a year to enable the charity to find alternative funding sources, which the chief executive of the Friary said he was ‘ very appreciative’ of.

The plan to withdraw the funding was approved unanimously. Speaking at the meeting, councillor Liz Plant, who represents the West Bridgford North ward for Labour, said: “I do hope that every effort is made to find the extra funding because without a doubt this service provides a vital service for the most vulnerable people in society.”

Council Officer Jonathon Gribbin said: “Our assessment is that the closure would result in distress to residents.

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“Although a number of the service users are not county residents there is concern about its potential impact, so although the size of the public health ring-fenced grant is reducing, we have a proposal to extend the contract by a year because we believe that will maximise the opportunities for the Priory to secure alternative funding.”

Sam Crawford is the chief executive of the charity, and said: ‘The Friary is very appreciative of Nottinghamshire County Council’s decision to extend the charity’s public health contract for a period of a year and for their offer of assistance in securing funding from other sources thereafter.

“The Friary very much looks forward to working with the local authority to ensure that resources are available to support local homeless people into recovery in the years to come.

“In the light of the recent austerity measures, the Friary actively values the opportunity to work in partnership across all sectors within our local community in our attempts to work locally to end homelessness.”

Conservative councillor Stuart Wallace, who represents the Newark East ward, is the chairman of the Adult Social Care and Public Health Committee, which approved the plans today.

He said he recognised the role the Friary plays in offering ‘advice, support and social interaction to local people, some of whom are homeless or living with the threat of homelessness.’

He said: “Although 60 percent of the service users are not county residents, we have decided to offer an extension to the contract to provide the Friary opportunity to secure future funding from other sources.

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“The eventual termination of funding to the Friary will reflect the facts that the scale of the Friary’s contribution to public health outcomes is modest and that the council does not fund similar provision elsewhere in the county.”

Mike Scott is the Labour party spokesman for Rushcliffe, and said: “This decision shows how much the Conservative council cares about homelessness. While it is one of the main issues most people are concerned about, this council is looking to withdraw even the current reduced funding.

“Have these councillors got no social conscience? Homeless people died during the recent cold spell and there is no doubt that more will die if the support they rely on is cut.”

Cheryl Pidgeon is the Rushcliffe parliamentary candidate for Labour, and said: “This is a cruel and totally unacceptable decision by the Conservative council.

“It is just kicking people when they’re down. Housing and homelessness is one of Labour’s top campaigning issues in Rushcliffe and we will be doing everything we can over the next twelve months to get this cut reversed.
“We will also be contacting the Friary to see what the local Labour Party can do to help them in the short term.”