Why the African Caribbean Citizens Forum Has Been Forced to Close

Sadly Leicester’s Labour Council continues to choose to carry through the brutal policies enacted by the Tories, which means that essential public services are being lost right, left, and centre.

One of the latest victims of our Labour Council’s unwillingness to build a fight-back against Tory austerity is the African Caribbean Citizens Forum (http://www.accforum.org.uk). The threatened loss of core funding for this group was reported the Leicester Mercury last year (March 11, 2015).

The article pointed out that: “Leicester City Council spends £286,000 on contracts with groups providing services to support different communities and help tackle inequality,” but was planning on cutting that budget by £90,000 a year. The Mercury continued:

“The proposed cuts could affect the African Caribbean Citizens Forum, The Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO), the Gujurat Hindu Association, Leicester Council of Faiths, The Race Equality Centre and The Somali Development Service.”

As you might expect, the proposed cuts the Council was ‘consulting’ on eventually went through despite much opposition, and on Tuesday 20th September 2016 the board of the African Caribbean Citizens Forum “unanimously agreed to dissolve the organisation due to the loss of funding.” There can be no doubt that the closure of this Forum represents a tragic loss for Leicester.

A recent financial review produced by the African Caribbean Citizens Forum explained:

“The 2015/16 has been a turbulent year. At the start of the year we were still awaiting the outcome of Leicester City Council’s Review ‘Working with the city’s Voluntary and Community Sector to support engagement with communities’. In June 2015 we unexpectedly received a notice to quit and were obliged to find new premises following Apex (Leicester) Project’s decision to surrender its lease on Apex House. By July we had signed a tenancy for new offices at 60 Charles Street, only to be informed two weeks later that Leicester City Council would be terminating its existing contracts at the end of October 2015 pending a decision about new arrangements. Despite assurances both verbally and in writing that a decision would be made soon and before the end of the contracts, the decision was not forthcoming until 4 November 2015 when Leicester City Council proposed that a new Community Engagement Fund be introduced. This proposal required public consultation, the outcome of which was the introduction of a two tier small grants programme for ‘projects’ which launched in April 2016. To date we are not aware of any activities funded through the Community Engagement Fund.

“Over the last few years our fundraising efforts have been significantly hampered. Being under almost constant review discourages funders from investing. As a small organisation we have limited capacity, the majority of funding available is ‘project’ funding which excludes staffing and running costs and other sources of funding such as European funding are behind with commissioning plans,  and as a tier two infrastructure body, we often do not meet the criteria or there are insufficient targets to make it financially viable. Our applications to grant making trusts have, like 9 out of 10 other applicants, proved unsuccessful. On that basis, having being operating on restricted reserves since September 2015 ACCF has made the decision to dissolve the organisation whilst solvent and able to meet liabilities, undertaking an orderly winding up and removing the charity from the register in the New Year and striking off the company some time in Spring 2017.”

When will our Labour Council wake up to the reality that they have no choice but to coordinate community action against further cuts to public services?

Such a progressive change of heart would be welcome compared with the vicious attacks on our city’s remaining services that have been undertaken by Labour City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, as evidenced by his ongoing hostility towards the amazing work carried out by the Highfields Community Association. (For more on this see my article “Giving Up On Public Services,” September 17, 2015.)

Nevertheless in the meantime the Highfields Community Association is holding their Annual General Meeting on Friday 14th October (from 5.30pm, 96 Melbourne Road) where Professor Gus John will be releasing his comprehensive and critical report on Leicester City Council’s troublesome relationship with HCA over the last 25 years.

Finally, as October happens to be Black History Month, why not check out some of the amazing events being hosted across our city http://www.visitleicester.info/things-to-see-and-do/festivals-celebrations/black-history-month/events/

One event that might be of particular interest to those reading this article will be the showing of the Leicester Windrush Documentary (2015) at the Phoenix Cinema (Thursday 20th October) — a film which proudly documents “some of the Leicester Caribbean community’s most influential individuals, community leaders and companies, looking at their migration stories over the last 65 years.” http://leicesterwindrush.com/

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