COMMUNITY centres face an uncertain future because of cuts to a vital grant it has been claimed.

Kevin Nicholson, the chairman of Firthmoor and District Community Association has criticised the decision by Darlington Borough Council not to renew its grant from the authority’s Strategic Grant Fund.

The council has claimed that it is no longer able to offer the grant because of the reduction in funding from central government.

However, Mr Nicholson, a former youth MP for Darlington, is urging residents to contact their local councillors asking for an explanation why the grant has been cut.

The community association runs Firthmoor Community Centre which used to receive a regular grant from the fund. Over the previous years, the amount it has received has decreased and this year, the council said it would only be able to offer funding to a limited number of organisations which met certain criteria and the community centre was no one of them.

Mr Nicholson said: “The Firthmoor Community Centre like other local community charities in the town face enormous pressures this year, with budgets already stretched, running costs increasing and a general lack of support from the council, it’s not inconceivable to see the closure of many community centres across Darlington.

“The closures will be as a direct result of this appalling decision.

“Community Centres sit at the heart of local communities, they create environments where people can get involved and feel part of something.

“They are the hubs from which all services can prosper, they support the most vulnerable and are on the front line dealing day to day with local residents, providing vital support.

“The council’s decision to not award a single community centre in Darlington is a clear message that we’re on our own, the council does not know that we’ll survive.

“Because of this decision cuts will have to be made. The only people that will suffer as a result are the volunteers, staff and local residents. People will lose their community centres.”

A Council Spokeswoman said all community groups were able to apply for to grant from the £176,500 fund if they met certain criteria.

She added: "Firthmoor Community Centre applied for funding from the Strategic Grant Fund, along with 19 other voluntary organisations requesting a total of £589,890 per year.

"Only six organisations were successful in securing funding, unfortunately Firthmoor Community Centre did not score as well as some other organisations and was one of the unsuccessful applicants.

"This is a very challenging time for the council and the reduction in funding available reflects the significant reduction in the council’s funding from Government."