SEVERAL local community groups have branded Cardiff Council’s Step Up Toolkit initiative as inadequate, as cuts continue across the public sector.
The initiative is designed to give local committees and volunteers the chance to take over the management of community service or assets that were formerly run by a public body. The Llandaff North Housing Association and The Friends of Forest Farm have joined the growing chorus of discontent with the council’s actions, suggesting the initiative has failed to connect with Cardiff North.
Friends of Forest Farm member Matt Lock said: “The Step Up toolkits are a joke and the workshops were all in the south of the city until I complained that four of our libraries are in the north of the city.
“One of our committee members went to a workshop and said it was truly awful. There is nothing the council are doing to encourage volunteers to step up, in fact they are saying either you run it as volunteers or you lose it.”
Chairwoman of the Llandaff North Housing Association, Steph Wilkins said: “Volunteers should be used to augment council staff, not replace them. Volunteers just don’t have the same experience, knowledge or resources as council staff.”
Mr Lock went even further to suggest that the Step Up Toolkit is merely a ruse to have an excuse for closing further public services: “The consultation document itself for Whitchurch Library even stated that there is no suitable community or commercial partner available to take over the library, suggesting that the council have done their homework.”
“Finding nobody to take it over, they decided to close it instead. It is a fine example of how this has been planned from the beginning.”
Community volunteer Wendy Ford, who works at the play centre in Grangetown said: “How does Phil Bale expect us to ‘step up’ and take this on? With all the goodwill in the world you can’t rely constantly and solely on volunteers. He needs a reality check.
“The Council need to look at other way to run these services in house rather than throwing the responsibility of the service onto the people. Transferring the responsibility on to the community is no way to be running the council!”
Writing in his blog, Council leader Phil Bale said: “This is all part of our commitment to working with people, empowering communities and helping to deliver a fairer Cardiff.”
Peter Sullivan, chairman of Ely play centre said: “We are already doing everything in our community. We are even down to organising our own litter picks due to cut backs.” Ely play centre is one of six council-funded play centres in Cardiff facing closure next year as the council seeks to save £800,000.
The council states in the toolkit: “In this age of austerity, public bodies have been under increasing pressure to find new and more efficient ways of delivering their services. This has impacted across the board, but perhaps no more so than on community services delivered at a local level.”
The council, when consulted declined to comment.