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Fears over future of volunteer group
8:00am Saturday 26th May 2012 in News
CONCERNS have been raised about the future of a group of volunteers who keep the borough tidy.
The future of the Brentwood Countryside volunteers is in doubt because the leader of the group is going to work elsewhere in Essex.
The Labour group on Brentwood Council is now urging the Tory-run council to do everything possible to keep hold of the group.
The team of up to 50 volunteers spend four hours every Wednesday clearing footpaths, ponds and footbridges in Brentwood communities.
Last year they were given an award by Brentwood Council for their efforts.
Julie Morrissey, Brentwood South councillor, said: “Brentwood’s Countryside volunteers provide a vital role in our borough.
“Volunteer services should be protected against the Tory-run administration’s cuts agenda.
“Cameron’s Big Society is a sham if local people are not to be supported and this role must be protected.
“The council is keen to tell us it is protecting frontline services, which is clearly not the case.
“We have raised this issue with the council and demand an explanation.”
The leader of the group, Laura Dunnell, is employed by Essex County Council and paid by Brentwood Council to work for two days a week in Brentwood.
She is crucial to the group, which has been going for about 20 years, as she provides a van and equipment.
However, Essex County Council has now had to withdraw the service.
Tony Sleep, chairman of Brentwood Council’s environment panel, said: “The countryside officer who currently works with the Brentwood Countryside Volunteer Service is moving into a new role within the Essex County Council Public Rights of Way team and will unfortunately, therefore, no longer be working in the Brentwood area.
“The Countryside Volunteer Service has been in place a number of years and is a valuable resource for the environment that we do not want to risk losing.
“Brentwood Council is making it an urgent priority to find an alternative solution to continue supporting the tremendous work these volunteers do.”