Residents left dismayed by funding blow

RESIDENTS are calling for action to salvage something from the scrapping of a project to improve one of south east Northumberland’s most deprived towns a year early.

Improving Croft and Cowpen Quay (ICCQ), a government-funded neighbourhood management scheme, was launched six years ago to help tackle social problems and unemployment in Blyth.

It was due to run until 2012, but Northumberland County Council has decided to withdraw its funding a year ahead of schedule.

The £180,000 cash that move will save is to be spent on similar projects in Berwick, Alnwick and elsewhere instead.

Redundancy notices were handed out to ICCQ’s five paid staff as it wound up last week.

Now, residents of Blyth are fighting to ensure the project’s legacy lives on as they fear that without further funding, all ICCQ’s work will have been for nothing.

The project has run anti-crime initiatives, neighbourhood clean-ups and youth activities.

Mary Pringle, 70, of Disraeli Street, is among the residents angry about the project being axed.

She said: “We have been working with ICCQ for six years now.

“When they first came here the area was in a right state and there were drug problems, but they turned it round and brought the community together.

“We are going to try and keep it going ourselves, but if the funding isn’t there, there is very little we can do. I would hate to think it will all go down the pan, so we can only try.”

ICCQ board member Vince Coils, also county councillor for the Croft ward, said: “I have worked for substantial lengths of time with people in Berwick and Alnwick, and, quite simply, the south east corner of the county is in a higher state of deprivation.

“They do have their problems, but they are nowhere near the problems we have here.

“It is just absolutely barbaric the way this government is financing third-sector needs.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “We are faced with making difficult decisions about how best to maximise the resources at our disposal.

“The intention is to apply some of the actions and tools successfully developed in Blyth to other Northumberland communities which would benefit from this neighbourhood management approach.

“Certain estates in Berwick will benefit, as will parts of other towns including some in south east Northumberland.

“It is disappointing that this funding could not be maintained, but it comes against a backdrop of a £43.7m cut in our total grant funding from the government.”