Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council cuts £10,000 from Community Action Hertsmere

Rex Dunwoody, Jennifer Reefe, Heather Walsh and Joy Nicoll showing some of the work they do

Outside the shop

First published in News
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Borehamwood Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

An organisation that supports the most vulnerable in Borehamwood fears for its future after a council was forced to withdraw its funding.

Community Action Hertsmere (CAH) has learned, from April 1, it will lose the £10,000 grant it receives from Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council.

The grant, which was the organisation’s core funding, paid for the running costs of its Big Local Community Shop in Leeming Road, as well as some of the wages of its employees.

The organisation will now have to cut the shop’s opening times, or in the worst case, close it entirely, as well as reducing the hours of its 14 staff and perhaps make some redundant.

As well as providing support for 200 smaller charities through the Hertsmere CVS and volunteer centre, CAH’s community shop holds job clubs, domestic violence support sessions, adult learning, activities and clubs for the over 50s, as well as being a place for the isolated to find a friendly face.

The organisation’s Chief Executive of Community Action Hertsmere Heather Walsh said the cut would have a “huge impact” on the organisation’s work.

She said: “We have been working with the council for more than ten years and I understand they were forced to make this decision as a last resort.

“But this cut is a big blow and it will make it much harder for us to continue to operate the services we offer. We will have to make some very difficult decisions in order to keep going.”

Community Development Coordinator Jennifer Reefe said she had been told by members of the public the shop had “saved their lives”.

She said: “We have one elderly lady who was completely isolated with no companion but her dog. We invited her to come here and offered her friendship as well as putting her in touch with the services that can help her. She said we had given her a purpose.

“People drop in to use the internet, and we then talk to them and find out what other support we need. We help those who have no voice, giving them skills and opportunities, or even something as basic as friendship.

“We were just beginning to get more visible and now this funding cut means all the progress we have made could come to nothing. There is nowhere else in this part of town for these people to go. ”

Receptionist Rex Dunwoody said he was terrified the cut would mean he would lose his job.

He said: “I used to volunteer here and was given a job a year ago. I love working here, but if there’s no funding here and the shop closes I’ll be forced to leave.”

Ms Walsh is currently seeking grants and other sources of funding that will help her keep the organisation afloat.

Elstree and Borehamwood Town Council’s Mayor Clive Butchins said the council “had not made this decision lightly”.

He added: “We have to balance the budget and other costs are going up. We had to cut a big chunk of funding in order to have any impact. We have already been forced to raise council tax by two per cent, but that small rise won’t even cover half of this grant and things are difficult as it is for council tax payers.

“If we can reinstate this funding next financial year we will.”

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