FUNDING for vital community projects that are a ‘lifeline’ to the most vulnerable could be scrapped in bid to find nearly £3m-worth of savings.

As part of major cuts, Slough Borough Council must ease pressures on their finances and, as a result, is looking to shut down its team that carries out community development and youth work.

The community development team has three officers and they create initiatives as well as apply for external funding that support Slough’s community. They also support projects organised by charities and voluntary organisations.

In the customer and community directorate part of the draft 2022/23 budget, the council has identified nearly £3m-worth of savings. By cutting the spending on the team and its projects, it can save £452,000.

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A breakdown of the savings the council might make includes:

  • £214,000 community development
  • £160,000 youth work
  • £78,000 project costs to support this work

At a customer and community scrutiny panel meeting on Tuesday, November 9, it was heard this service is ‘discretionary’, meaning the council does not have to spend cash to keep it going.

Slough bosses will have to make up to £20m-worth of cuts every year for five years after finance officers found gargantuan borrowing debt and financial black holes.

Slough Observer: Richard West speaking at a customer and community scrutiny meetingRichard West speaking at a customer and community scrutiny meeting

Richard West, executive director of customer and community, said the council is facing a “dilemma” that it does desperately need to find savings but does not want to shut down a service residents depend on.

He said: “It’s not something we want to see discontinued and there is a recognition that if it is absent in entirety then we will be in a difficult position in future years.

“But at the moment, we've got to identify the things we have to do by law, and must we do those until we get ourselves where we've got a balanced budget. But we’re not in a position to make discretionary spend.”

Panel members heard the council will be finding alternative funding, such as asking Public Health to “reconsider” upping their contribution to keep the teams going.

One-off funds from government, Thames Valley Police, and other partners are also being looked at. Mr West also said they are in the progress of looking into ‘crowdfunding’ the community development and youth work initiatives.

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However, if all avenues fail, then the team will disband where the officers could be made redundant or moved over to the housing team as their ‘transferable skills’ could be used to fill vacancies in that department.

Independent Cllr Madhuri Bedi (Foxborough) said she was both “alarmed and saddened” that ceasing funds for the team to carry out vital community work will have a “devastating and detrimental impact” on some of the most vulnerable residents, children, and families in Slough.

Cabinet councillors were urged “to do everything possible” to keep these services running that are “crucial” for residents by Cllr Kamaljit Kaur (Lab: Baylis & Stoke).

She said: “It is critical to a town like Slough where we have had police cuts and not many preventative services.

“While short-term this may be a saving, the long-term ripple effect this loss will have will be a much bigger burden on Slough.”

The comments will be forwarded to cabinet where finalised cuts will be put forward before the financial year ends next year.