Call for Council cash for Doncaster Women's Aid rejected

Protesters fighting for Doncaster Women's Aid outside the Civic Offices
Protesters fighting for Doncaster Women's Aid outside the Civic Offices

Mayor of Doncaser Ros Jones says she will try to help Doncaster Women's Aid - but has rejected a call for cash to be diverted to the organisation from council reserves.

Protesters who are fighting to keep the organisation, which works to help women who have become victims of abuse, challenged the mayor over funding for the group at the full council meeting last week.

It followed a series of protests outside the Civic Buildings over the ending of funding for Women's Aid.

Campaigner Louise Harrison, asked: “South Yorkshire Women’s Aid is a vital service. Many of Doncaster Council’s own agencies refer clients to it. Nevertheless, DMBC has still stated that it has no money to fund the service after December.

"However, in DMBC’s statement of accounts 2016/17, it states that it has £97 million in ‘usable’ reserves, £20 million being ‘unallocated’. The Department of Education also awarded DMBC £3.1 million for DV (domestic violence) services, of which SYWA (South Yorkshire Women's Aid) received none. You also have a pot of around £1 million of grant under spends for the stronger families programme. Therefore, will DMBC use these monetary resources to fund SYWA?”

Mrs Jones said Doncaster Council has been forced to cut more than £200m from its annual revenue budget since 2010 and faced further significant funding cuts in the coming years, but said the council spends over £1m per year on related services a women's refuge and domestic Violence Helpline.

She said: "Following the decision by the Trustees of Doncaster Women’s Aid to close the organisation, local people wanted to set up a new successor charity.

"We supported that aim, and provided a one-off grant of £30,000 and assistance from Council officers.

"However, as with all independent charities in Doncaster, South Yorkshire Women's Aid must plan to exist without reliance on funding from Doncaster Council, which unfortunately is simply not in a position to provide financial assistance to every VCS organisation facing financial pressures.

She said most of the £97m detailed in the Council’s 2016/17 statement of accounts was already ring-fenced for specific purposes and by the end of March 2018 uncommitted reserves would be down to £10m, which would support the Council for less than two weeks.

"With regards to the Growing Futures Project, the Department for Education has not awarded the Council £3.1m for current services. However, the Council has identified £3.1m funding for the Doncaster Children’s Trust to maintain current programmes.

"The Council is therefore continuing to meet with the Trustees, and I will work with them to sustain South Yorkshire Women’s Aid, if they are able to develop a credible plan for the future financial sustainability of the organisation."