A HAMPSHIRE charity met volunteers, to discuss the impact of funding cuts to vital community services across the county.

Voluntary groups gathered at an AGM hosted by Community First, to celebrate achievements of the voluntary sector and outline ambitious strategies for the future, including how to minimise the impact of funding cuts proposed by Hampshire County Council.

Hampshire County Council’s proposal to meet a £132 million budget shortfall by 2025 was approved in November with the next round of public consultations opening in the New Year.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Community First AGMCommunity First AGM (Image: Community First)

Funding cuts will affect some of Community First’s services including transport, mobility services and START which helps survivors of sexual abuse, as well as the infrastructure support it gives its members and voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. This includes help with fundraising, volunteer recruitment and training.

At its AGM, Community First said the reduced funding for community services risks leaving people isolated. The charity believes more should be done to make people aware of the council’s plans and difficult decisions it has to make and help them to understand the impact, ahead of the next consultations.

Tim Houghton, chief executive, said: “We continue to recognise the difficult decisions that councils are facing in balancing budgets with rising costs and demand for social care and children’s services, and call on government to invest in long-term support for community services.

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“It would be more cost-effective to sustain investment in the voluntary sector, forging long-term partnerships which lessen the burden on local authorities and NHS. Also drawing on the community expertise, local charities and volunteers to help people lead happy and healthy lives.” 

Community First is urging customers and Hampshire residents to contact their county councillors and MPs to highlight the impact of the cuts.     

The December meeting also looked at other challenges faced by the voluntary sector, including recruiting volunteers and accessing new sources of income. Speakers included Tim Houghton, Bertie Herrtage, The Crowdfunding Coach and Dr Debra Gray, a reader in social psychology at the University of Winchester.

For more information about Community First go to cfirst.org.uk.