Norfolk charities travel to London to meet minister
Staff from local charities will join north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb to voice their concerns over looming budget cuts with the coalition government next week.
Representatives from Voluntary Norfolk, BREAK, Citizens Advice, Age UK North Norfolk, BUILD, About with Friends and the Holt Youth Project will meet with Nick Hurd, minister for civil society.
Mr Hurd, one of the MPs leading the government's Big Society push, asked Mr Lamb to arrange the meeting to get feedback from the sector.
The group will travel to London on February 2 and brief the minister on issues affecting them and the people who rely on their services, as well as their worries over funding.
Norfolk County Council alone will shed 750 jobs and slash budgets by �155m over the next three years, which could see funding for local charities reduced or withdrawn.
Voluntary Norfolk chief executive, Brian Horner, said that cuts in funding from local and national government could create a 'perfect storm' for charities which could see some lose staff and others fold entirely.
Linda Rogers, Voluntary Norfolk's head of communications and engagement said that charities in Norfolk faced additional problems and these needed to be made clear to Mr Hurd.
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'From our point of view we'd just like him to grasp some of the additional challenges that people face in Norfolk,' she said.
'Particularly in rural areas we've got issues around transport. It's often the case that there isn't sufficient public transport. It all increases the cost, sometimes to the people using the services, sometimes to the charity itself.'
She added that some strategies put forward by the government would be welcomed, as long as there remained sufficient budget to implement them.
'Big Society has got its merits as an idea, but it won't happen for nothing,' said Mrs Rogers.
'Some great ideas come out from central government but you've got to consult the sector.
'It has to be thought through, it won't happen for free. Voluntary organisations don't work on thin air.'
Mr Lamb said: 'When the offer came from Nick Hurd I leapt at it. I wanted to make sure that groups in Norwich have the opportunity to meet with the minister.'
'I'm very much aware that this period ahead is inevitably going to be challenging for the voluntary sector and I want to make sure we get through it with as much support and as little damage as possible.
'I'm aware of the vital work they do in our county and elsewhere.'
But he also said that the Big Society offered opportunities for charities.
A voluntary sector conference will be held in Norwich today to discuss the way forward in light of local authority cuts.
The Voluntary Sector Forum Conference at the Abbey Conference Centre will see government adviser Paul Oginsky talk about the impact of council cuts.