Crucial volunteer service faces closure

A VOLUNTEER service which provides a crucial link between cash-strapped charities and the workers who keep them running is today under serious threat of closure.

A VOLUNTEER service which provides a crucial link between cash-strapped charities and the workers who keep them running is today under serious threat of closure.

The Ipswich Volunteer Centre in Tower Street has told staff they will all be made redundant on July 31 if new funding is not found.

The service is funded by both Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council but is only able to keep running by securing extra grants each year from a range of sources.

However this year the charity has been unable to find the extra funding and its board of trustees has been forced to shut it down before it becomes insolvent.

The decision has sparked fears that charities could miss out on hundreds of new volunteers willing to donate their time and skills.

Ian Burnett, the chairman of the centre's management board, said: “There is a very serious problem with funding.

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“The short-term funding is coming to an end and the trustees have to ensure the organisation doesn't become insolvent.

“The staff have worked like Trojans however if we haven't got the money to pay them we can't go on.

“It's extremely sad and the trustees were very heavy hearted in having to make the decision.”

Suffolk County Council contributed £9,201 to the running of the volunteer centre in 2005/2006 and had pledged the same amount for 2006/2007 and Ipswich Borough Council had also maintained its funding but each year the centre has had to find an extra £13,000 to stay afloat.

Its four staff, including one full-time employee, now face losing their jobs because the money cannot be found.

In the past year the centre channelled more than 430 volunteers to charities throughout the area by helping people who were looking to become volunteers find an organisation that was suited to their abilities.

Estimates from the centre's treasurer suggest an extra £16,000 is needed to keep it running through to the end of March with current staffing levels. If the size of the centre was cut back £6,000 would be needed.

Cllr Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for adult and community services, said: “I regret that the Ipswich Volunteer Centre find themselves in this situation.

“We greatly value, and have continued to help fund their service. Many excellent services in Suffolk depend largely on help from volunteers, including some of our council-run day centres.”

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