Council forces youth charity to close after last minute loan refusal

Children’s charity Wide Horizons has been forced to close after Greenwich council made a last minute U-turn and refused to lend the struggling charity £200,000.

In a statement released by the charity, it said nine centres would be forced to close, resulting in 75 job losses, unless the charity can pay £200,000 by 31 July to cover rent money that the charity currently owes to the council.

Wide Horizons is an outdoor adventure charity, providing learning opportunities for children and had an income of £3m. The council had initially pledged it would lend the charity the full amount, but changed its mind at the last minute.

The charity has accused the council of “four months of time-wasting”, which has left the charity with no choice but to close as of 31 July.

It claims the decision will now affect “thousands” of school children and young people who “will not have the opportunity to experience adventure on the trips booked both for this summer and next year”.

Wide Horizons chief executive, Peter Rogers OBE, said: “It’s tragic really. The council only took the decision [on 25 July] not to provide the loan, having known for four months that we would have to close without it.

“We are bitterly disappointed as they had implied right up until [25 July] that they would support us. As it stands, unless we can find £200k in the next week to match the £200k that has already been pledged by our other supporters we will have to close.

“It has been confirmed that the decision was made without the consultation of the Cabinet or the full Council. It is somewhat shocking, given the fantastic community support received, as well as the fact that over 70% of Greenwich schools rely on Wide Horizons to provide their outdoor education. Yet, coincidentally, this decision has been made once all schools have broken up for the summer holidays,” he said.

He claimed the last-minute decision means Greenwich Council will avoid “any backlash” from schools, parents and pupils who will subsequently miss out on trips booked for the next school year.

The charity’s chair of trustees, John Russell, who is also a former councillor called the council’s move an “amazingly short-sighted decision” by the council.

“It will almost certainly cost them more than £200k to secure and maintain the properties that Wide Horizons currently lease from Greenwich but that will be left redundant and will subsequently need new people to run them,” he said.

“We have requested the council to rethink their decision and have informed them that we would be open to working with them to find a better solution. We would welcome any opportunities to discuss how we can preserve our services before they close at the end of the month.”

The charity is now urgently seeking pledges through its crowdfunding page, in a bid to secure the £200k needed to continue operation from the end of the month.

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