CLUBS in Devizes that support elderly and disabled people are to keep fighting to keep their grant cash after Wiltshire Council did a sudden about face this week.

Cabinet members Jerry Wickham and Philip Whitehead both admitted that letters sent out to groups telling them of grant cuts should not have been posted.

Cllr Wickham said: "The wording of the letters was unacceptable and should not have been sent until consultation was carried out. If I had been someone opening one of them I would have been upset."

But despite the council's decision to postpone cutting the grants to groups including Devizes and District Association For The Blind & Partially Sighted, Devizes and District Association for Disabled, Devizes PHAB, Devizes Monday Club and Devizes Wednesday Club a major review is about to start.

Social care cabinet member Cllr Wickham said Wiltshire was behind the times when compared with other areas and he wanted to look at all the funding and how it was spent. He said: "We want to make the service fit for the 21st Century."

Many of the groups use the Nursteed Centre in Devizes as a base and use mini bus transport from Devizes PHAB.

This week a number of the groups pointed out that some members only trip outside of their homes was to a weekly meeting and if this stopped they would be in despair.

PHAB president Paula Winchcombe said: "It is good news that there is a reprieve for the time being.

" But I remain concerned about consultation. I, and I am sure the other groups, look forward to discussions with Wiltshire Council around future funding for the groups affected.

"The groups not only provide a one off service and with the integration of mixed ages and abilities go beyond that of a day centre as assumed by the council. Access to such groups by all must be maintained.

The bid to cut £62,000 from the council's budget was questioned by Wessex Community Action who said it was in breach of the Wiltshire Compact between the council and voluntary sector.

Devizes town councillors are also worried about the future of the clubs.

Andy Johnson said: "In the past the youth Club in Devizes "died of a thousand cuts".

We lost the building that housed the youth club, and we lost most of our youth workers. Volunteers stepped up and the Devizes Youthy was formed, supported by the Devizes Area Board, the Local Youth Network and Devizes Town Council.

"The volunteers tried heroically to make it work, but with no real finance or permanent home and other difficulties they had to close. I am concerned because the youth club was a real refuge for some youngsters, who needed somewhere to be and sympathetic support and guidance.

"These new cuts will be a disaster for other clubs and organisations that help and support some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom cannot manage without the support of such organisations, Sadly I can see the same pattern as the youth club being repeated with them.

"Having a disabled son I see that previous cuts have had a marked effect on his ability to live a a more fulfilled life. Central Government bears most of the blame by cutting Council Grants to the bone and creating a tsunami of suffering down the line."

Mayor Andy Geddes is also worried. He said: "I know from first hand experience that these cuts in grant funding are having an impact on the organisations which support elderly and disabled people and on the activities which they are able to provide. "I recently visited one such group which meets at the Nursteed Centre, and heard their concerns not only about the effects of reduced income, but also about the difficulty in finding alternative sources of funding.

"It is all the more worrying because these organisations play an important part in addressing the problems of social isolation and loneliness amongst their members, which is one of the priorities in Wiltshire Council's current ten year Business Plan.

"It is also short sighted, as there are clear indications that problems of loneliness and social isolation, particularly amongst the elderly, lead to an increased burden and expense on other official agencies dealing with health and wellbeing and on social care needs.

"Cutting the relatively modest support provided to voluntary organisations may therefore be counterproductive by adding to the costs of such official services."

Cllr Wickham said: “I have suspended any cuts to the reduction of grant funding. We will now work with various clubs to go through and understand what the issues are and design a new way of operating going forward.

“Nobody likes funding being cut and in hindsight the first thing the clubs found out about was getting a letter through their door. And that is not the right way and not the way we all agreed to operate as part of the Wiltshire Compact.

“That is why I and my cabinet members decided it was an inappropriate way to proceed and not in the spirit of things.”

A statement earlier on Monday from Wessex Community Action highlighted the breach of the Wiltshire Compact between the council and voluntary sector

It stated: “Wessex Community Action (WCA) along with many other charities and voluntary sector organisations has received notice from Wiltshire Council of the termination of their grants.

“These notices came completely out the blue and there has been no consultation or engagement with WCA before the letter of termination arrived.

“WCA have responded by drawing Wiltshire Council’s attention to the Wiltshire Compact agreement which they have breached.”