IN his New Year Message, the Leader of Bury Council was trying hard to remain upbeat by talking of the challenges ahead as well as the opportunities (Bury Times, January 1).

But with such deeply unfair, unnecessary and counter-productive 70 per cent of cuts in the council’s budget imposed by the government since 2010 and up to 2020, it is obvious that 2018 will indeed by the his most challenging year yet.

This is why while adding its voice to the Association of Local Government’s long-standing opposition to further cuts, our Labour-led council must do all it can to harness the time and energy of local volunteers.

Up and down the country, volunteers strengthen the fabric of our civic society and make a huge contribution to the protection of our green spaces and environment.

For reasons unknown, Bury Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), located near Bury Central Library, was shut down in early 2007.

Later that same year, Bury Third Sector Development Agency (B3SDA) was set up.

B3SDA was based in Kay Street in the middle of the Freetown Industrial Estate.

Whether B3SDA has been a success or not will probably remain a matter for debate. The fact is that it was dissolved on January 3, 2017, due to the accounts not being submitted on time to Company House.

Bury volunteers have been doing a most extraordinary job for all those years.

They offer practical assistance and language classes to refugees and asylum seekers; provide invaluable work experience placements, organise food banks; collect, repair and deliver furniture for those who have nothing; manage countless charity shops; help maintain our parks and green spaces; manage allotments; clean our canals; tidy up footpaths and back streets; assist staff in our hospitals and residential homes as well as run community projects for the benefit of the most vulnerable.

They also raise thousands of pounds for hundreds of good causes in the process.

The existence of Bury's army of volunteers is part of what makes our borough such a decent place to live, work and play.

In the same way as unpaid domestic work is largely carried out by women still, our volunteers add real value to our local economy.

Their contribution cannot be underestimated, and must not be taken for granted.

This is why the lack of adequate and appropriate resources to support the voluntary sector in Bury remains so short-sighted.

It is also now absurdly at odds with the leader of the Council’s vision of a meaningful partnership with members of our civic society, whether it be about devolving some decisions at neighbourhood level or talks of improving community engagement and development.

Shockingly for Greater Manchester, there is no dedicated centre for volunteers in Bury.

Furthermore, the online application via the council’s website which offers links to "Time Bank UK", "Biobanking", the national site “Volunteering Matters” and the NHS website is of little use to anyone seeking to volunteer.

From Bury Greens’ own recent experience in actively supporting the Friends of Dumers Lane Community Centre project, it would appear that there isn’t anywhere in Bury to turn to for professional advice to register as a charity.

We also found that there appears to be no help available for setting up a social enterprise, matters of governance and training, or even fundraising or grant applications. Such assistance is freely available to community groups and individuals living in Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Manchester and Wigan.

This is why Bury Green Party is now calling on the leader of the council to grasp this nettle, do the right thing, show some imagination and find a solution to create a resource centre in partnership with Bury's voluntary sector as a matter of urgency.

Nicole Haydock

Bury Green Party