UNDER THREAT: Leicester’s Race Equality Centre
ONE OF the UK’s longest established race equality organisations is under threat of closure following proposed budget cuts.
Leicester’s Race Equality Centre (TREC), which was founded in 1967, faces the prospects of a huge cut in funding after the city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, announced plans to review how voluntary and community groups in the city are funded.
The review began last year following the announcement of drastic reductions in grant funding to the city council from central government.
The results of the review are expected to be announced in May. Currently, the city council backs seven voluntary and community groups to the tune of £582,000. TREC receives £117,000 a year.
At the review’s launch in October, Soulsby said: “This review will help us look at new ways of working together to ensure that we deliver the right support and services in increasingly challenging circumstances.”
However, TREC and many of the other organisations such as the African Caribbean Citizens' Forum, the Federation of Muslim Organisations, the Gujurat Hindu Association, Leicester Council of Faiths which were looked at as part of the review, are convinced that the mayor’s words is a signal to cut funding. Supporters of the organisations involved have also expressed surprise at the imminent cut in funding.
According to the 2011 census, Leicester is one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse cities, with one of the lowest rates of residents who identify themselves as white British, at 45 per cent, and the highest proportion of British Indians, at 28.3 per cent.
Last week, a public meeting was held at the council’s Lower Hill Street headquarters to discuss the issue.
TREC chair Surinder Sharma warned that any potential cuts could have a disastrous effect in community cohesion in Leicester.
Sharma said: “There’s this mentality in the city that racial equality here is very good because racial harmony is very good and that we’re an example to other cities. But that doesn’t mean unemployment levels among black and minority ethnic communities isn’t higher than the national average, or that there aren’t serious mental health issues among young black men, or that stop and search isn’t an issue. The need to provide services that deal with these things hasn’t gone away.”
He added: “It’s not like we’re costing the council thousands of pounds every year. We cost them £117,000 but we bring in over £230,000 to the city every year because of the economic activity we create through our business development programme and the businesses we’ve helped to create.
“We help asylum seekers, deal with complaints of racial discrimination, we deal with employment issues, we work with Leicestershire police on stop and search issues. There is still important work to be done.”
But a Leicester City Council spokesperson said: “This is part of a wider review of the way the council funds voluntary and community sector organisations.
“No decision has yet been taken about future funding allocations. We have now completed our consultation and initial proposals are due to be presented to the council’s scrutiny commission, and all affected organisation in the next couple of weeks. A final decision is then expected to be taken towards the end of April.”