Volunteers fear vital park work may end if cash cuts go ahead
A VOLUNTEER group which looks after one of Derby's two ancient woodlands has warned it could fold if proposed budget cuts by the city council go ahead.
Friends of Chaddesden Wood is one of 12 similar groups across the city which help look after parks, woods, and open spaces alongside the council.
But members were left dismayed when the authority proposed withdrawing its £60,000 annual funding to Wild Derby – an organisation which supports the friends' groups – in its 2013-14 budget.
Wild Derby provides members with vital indemnity insurance which gives them cover they need to carry out volunteer work. It also provides staff for events, advice and organises the city's "Let's go wild in Derby" programme which raises awareness of the friends' work.
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Maggie Cooper, Friends of Chaddesden Wood chairman, said: "Without the indemnity insurance we can still communicate with people about the wood but in terms of being active with the woodland the friends' group could fold."
She said the group did not have other regular funding and that grants were usually only available for one-off purchases of items.
She said: "Without the insurance, if anything happened to one of our volunteers we wouldn't be able to meet their costs."
Mandy Packham, secretary of Friends of Littleover Parks, said its members' insurance was also paid for by Wild Derby and that it also paid for people to help build a new pond-dipping platform.
She said: "For that £60,000 the council is getting hundreds and hundreds of hours of volunteer work. The council could lose a lot of goodwill from people if they cut this cash."
The council proposes cutting the funding as part of £62.4m it must save over the next three years because of cuts in its grant from government, inflation and Derby's growing population.
Councillor Hardyal Dhindsa, cabinet member for planning, environment, and public protection, has met with people interested in finding a way forward for Wild Derby. He said: "We will be looking very carefully at all the consultation responses and suggestions.
"We will seek to find the best way forward, consistent with the reduced resources the council has available. It is evident that in the future we will need to continue to work in partnership at a local level to increase the capacity of local people and groups to become involved in maintaining and improving their local parks and open spaces.
"We would not be considering making such draconian cuts if our allocation from Central Government was better."