Voluntary groups look to the future

Voluntary groups across north Norfolk are gearing up to cope with a new world of rising demand for their services and less money to pay for them.

They gathered for a special meeting on Friday to look into the future as government spending cuts begin to bite, to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Fifty people met with a panel from national and local government and the voluntary sector in a session at Northrepps village hall organised by the vcsTogether Forum which represents more than 400 organisations from small rural support groups to Norfolk's biggest charity Break.

The forum's development manager Andrew Campbell said it was 'a very positive meeting' as the voluntary sector looked at the opportunities to deliver services, while finding ways to increase efficiency through sharing services such as back office, finance and payroll, and working with local businesses.

'We must be alert to the changes that are happening and take the initiative,' he added. 'It is not necessarily all a bad thing.'

The Reality behind the Rhetoric meeting panel comprised North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, Philip Burton, chief executive of North Norfolk District Council, David Harwood, Norfolk County Council's portfolio holder for adult social services and Brian Horner, chief executive of Voluntary Norfolk.

It was chaired by James Kearns, chief executive of BUILD, a local charity run by people with learning disabilities.

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The forum is due to meet against in February to update the situation.