VULNERABLE residents in rural communities across the borough could lose support just when they need it most.
Bosses at Warwickshire Rural Community Council (WRCC), which has supported people in villages like Willoughby and Grandborough for more than 70 years, say they may have to scale back their operation – which includes a community transport scheme and village hall maintainance – if plans to pull their Government funding go ahead.
WRCC chief executive Kim Slater told the Observer the proposed loss of funding to the national network of rural councils, ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England), means some £50,000 could be slashed from the organisation’s annual budget.
He said: “We have been providing support for residents in rural communities across the county for more than 70 years and unfortunately the future of that support is now in doubt.
“We lost our county council funding some years ago so this funding from central government is all the more important.
“There is a misconception that people who live in rural communities tend to be rich but we see many people who really need our help and have been hit disproportionately hard in a harsh economic climate.
“Simple things like staying warm or being able to get your shopping are much more difficult in the countryside where the cost of living is higher and getting around is more difficult.”
Last year WRCC, which employs around 25 people, completed more than 11,000 individual journeys for vulnerable people via its community transport schemes.
Its other schemes include a syndicate to help get bulk deals for people who need oil to heat their homes, and another to support the upkeep of village halls which Mr Slater said was the one put at most risk by the funding cuts.
Mr Slater added: “These buildings are crucial to rural communities and serve an enormous social function.
“When village halls go the community often suffers markedly and becomes disconnected.
“Unfortunately if we lose this funding we would have to look at reining in that support.”
More than 11,000 people have signed an online petition by ACRE to urge the Government to maintain the funding.
A spokesperson for Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said: “The ACRE Network works hard at the local level to ensure the rural voice is heard and to inspire community action.
“We are carefully considering future funding and no final decision has been made.”