Cash-strapped forum shuts up

A COMMUNITY forum has closed its doors because of lack of funding.

Glendale Community Forum was one of 27 set up by Northumberland County Council in 2009 to give local organisations and individuals some say in what was needed in their areas.

In just two years, it raised funding for an in-depth report into the economic and social needs around Glendale, highlighting the demand for more social housing, looking at barriers to boosting business and the economy, identifying problems with transport and communications and warning that the growing imbalance between old and young in the local population needed to be addressed.

The forum had set up a community action plan for tackling the problems when it heard in April that the county council was scrapping the funding for community forums.

Despite efforts to continue without funding in recent months, it has now decided to wind up.

Its final task was to hold a half-day workshop to try to find hosts for the four themes in the community action plan – social housing, business and the economy, transport and communications and population age imbalance.

Jane Pannell, former chief executive of Berwick Borough Council, who chaired the forum, said: “It is a matter of regret that the work of the forum has not been valued by the county council through continued financing for what was probably the best community forum in the whole of Northumberland.

“However, the vital issue is that Glendale continues to develop and prosper and to that end, it is hoped that the Glendale Gateway Trust will be willing to act as custodian for the whole of the community action plan and will action the issues arising, in particular from the business and economy and housing themes.

“In time, it is likely that other groups will emerge that will want to take an overview and action some of the issues in the other themes, but it is felt appropriate that, as a development trust, Glendale Gateway Trust take overall responsibility in the first instance.”

Tom Johnston, director of Glendale Gateway Trust, said: “The trust fully supports the aims of the community action plan and in an ideal world would be keen to take it forward but, like every other organisation, our funding has been cut.

“We have to be realistic about what we can achieve with less resources.

“We are currently working to provide more affordable housing in the old library building when the library moves to the Cheviot Centre later this year, but it is doubtful we will be able to secure grants to take on new responsibilities in the near future.

“However, the report produced by Glendale Community Forum will undoubtedly continue to be a useful resource and the trust is happy to work in partnership with any organisation able to take up the baton in the areas earmarked for action by the community forum.”