Urgent: Oxfordshire’s CAG network is under threat

January 9th, 2015 by Kate Griffin Leave a reply »

Did you know that Sustainable Witney is part of a network of community action groups (CAGs) in Oxfordshire? The CAG (Community Action Group) project supports local groups and links us together. Thanks to the CAG network, Oxfordshire has one of the most thriving networks of local sustainability groups in the whole of the UK. The CAG project doesn’t have a particularly high profile – they just get on with supporting us behind the scenes. Despite that, the project has received over 50 local and national awards for its work. And now it’s under threat.

Oxfordshire County Council are now proposing to cut the budget of the CAG project, with the long-term aim of removing all funding by 2018. This would mean that small volunteer-run groups like Sustainable Witney would be left with no support network. There would be no formal structure linking us to – and helping us work with – other groups in Oxfordshire. No more fruitful skillshares. No more help with administrative issues like sorting out public liability insurance for running our events.

Please email ask@oxfordshire.gov.uk to object to the proposed cuts.

The cuts are being made for financial reasons – but the numbers don’t add up. The project costs £96,000 a year to run, which sounds like a lot until you realise that this covers:

  • two incredibly hard-working full-time members of staff
  • a support fund for groups like Sustainable Witney to run events and initiatives we couldn’t afford otherwise
  • grants for very hard-up groups
  • insurance for events (which is a very significant cost if you’re a small group)

In addition, calculations show that the work of the CAG project has put around £800,000 of financial benefit into the county’s economy. That’s in addition to helping to create up to ten jobs in Oxfordshire by helping to kick-start projects that didn’t exist before. Cutting the funding might make short-term financial sense, but it’s a crazy idea in the long term.

But the real negative effects are harder to measure. Right now Oxfordshire is seen as a national leader in carbon reduction. That has a lot to do with the sustained, full-time work of the CAG team. Leaving this innovation to small groups working alone (wonderful and committed as we are!) will not achieve the same results. Right now we have a county bursting with exciting, innovative low-carbon and waste-reduction schemes. So many volunteers are putting their energy into running these projects in their spare time. Taking this small but crucial amount of support away sends a very negative message about the kind of place Oxfordshire is, and it won’t encourage any new volunteers.

The consultation about the proposed cuts ends TONIGHT at 11:59pm. Please take five minutes to email ask@oxfordshire.gov.uk and object to the proposed cuts.

 

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