Budget cuts leave Mid Ulster community groups on the brink

Cookstown's street angels
Cookstown's street angels

Mid Ulster Council is hoping to set up meetings with DSD and DARD officials to press for more funding for local community groups facing an uncertain future following budget cuts.

Deputations from Cookstown and District Women’s Group and Out and About Community Transport highlighted their plight to members of the council’s development committee.

Representatives from both organisations outlined the work they carried out in the area and the impact the shortage in funding will have them.

Members heard Mid Ulster Council will be taking responsibility for funding the community and voluntary sector.

Mary Hogg, development manager with the Women’s Group, told councillors that the Positive Steps Community Centre was on the verge of closure if funding could not be secured.

She pointed out that they were endeavouring to do everything in the power to get funding and had met DSD Minister Mervyn Storey who had refused them a second meeting.

Mrs Hogg stressed they were keeping services going on “small bits of money” from various sources, including The Lottery, but there was a shortfall of around 40 per cent.

Committee chair DUP Councillor Frances Burton sympathised with Mrs Hogg and said a lot of voluntary groups were in a similar situation owing to cutbacks.

Ulster Unionist Councillor George Shiels said the group did good work and he was sorry to learn that it was near closure. He urged them to continue pressing for funding.

A representative from Out and About Community Transport said their dial-a-lift service would be hit by the cuts and appealed to council for help.

She said they were informed that they would be getting 33 per cent less, or £52,900, than last year and this would impact adversely on their services.

“We estimate there will be 15,000 less transports across the region,” she explained.

“It will affect the most isolated and vulnerable members of our local community who depend on the transport to get to hospital appointments.”