Sadness as Sunderland charity closes due to cash crisis

Coun Stuart Porthouse, standing seventh from right, with other members of Sunderland South Forum.
Coun Stuart Porthouse, standing seventh from right, with other members of Sunderland South Forum.
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A former city mayor has spoken of his disappointment after a forum which brought hundreds of Wearside people together had to close due to a cash crisis.

The Sunderland South Forum held its final gathering at Launch Pad, in Farringdon’s Jubilee Centre, attended by community groups from the St Chad’s, Silksworth and Doxford areas.

It formed in 2006, became a registered charity a year later and aimed to improve “educational, economic, social and leisure opportunities” for people of all ages. However, a part-time worker who ran the group was recently made redundant, meaning it can no longer continue.

“We never expected it would close down because we’ve always had such tremendous support,” said Forum chair Coun Stuart Porthouse. “But it’s difficult for charitable organisations to get funding these days.

“We needed something like £8,000 or £9,000 a year and although it’s only a small amount, we couldn’t keep the forum going with just volunteers, we need to have someone employed. It’s a real shame that charitable organisations like this are falling by the wayside.”

The forum was never funded by the city council and meetings were always free from political debate.

Coun Porthouse, who served as Mayor in 2014-15, said uncertainty over whether the UK will stay in the European Union could also have created a funding problem.

“A major area of funding which could have easily helped the South Forum continue is The European Structural and Investment Funds programme,” added the councillor, who serves St Chad’s ward.

“Its European Social Fund focuses on improving employment opportunities, promoting social inclusion and investing in skills by providing the help people need to fulfil their potential.

“The only problem is that the Government must make an application to draw on this fund. As far as I’m aware, delivery was expected this September, however this will now be delayed while we wait to decide if we stay in the EU.”