Furniture charity to close after 10 years

A LOCAL charity is blaming changes in Angus Council’s funding arrangements for its forthcoming closure.

The Montrose Furniture Project will close its doors for the last time on Friday, March 30 after a decade of providing home starter packs for individuals and families in need or who were setting up home for the first time in the Montrose and Brechin areas.

Funding arrangements with the authority have changed over the years and a contract system is now in operation, worked through furniture recycling groups in Arbroath and Forfar.

The contract was put out to tender last year and Montrose and Arbroath joined forces to submit a bid and chairwoman Kathleen Ritchie this week said the Arbroath project will now deal with inquiries from the Montrose and Brechin areas.

The new scheme introduced capped grants and a competitive procurement process to effectively halve the costs to the authority under previous arrangements, using the local furniture recycling charities, which was deemed to be anti-competitive.

Under the system, introduced in April, 2009, clients were given vouchers worth up to £450 for a single person and £600 per couple setting up home for furniture and household items supplied by MAFRAD and other similar Angus organisations.

In 2009-10 around 390 households were provided with help and annual expenditure was over £135,000.

Mrs Ritchie said the current arrangement has called into doubt the sustainability of three projects in the county and the decision has been taken to contact the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to apply to close the Montrose project.

Mrs Ritchie said: “When we began the project there was no assistance for people starting up their tenancies, but there was a great need for help. We established the project and we have provided furniture for over 2,000 people in the Montrose and Brechin area.

“We also recycled over 500 tonnes of furniture and starter packs to the clients.

“The project has changed over the years and Angus Council now has a statutory duty to assist people who have been homeless. The council has changed its way of funding the projects on numerous occasions and now operate a contract system.

“We are no longer willing to contract to the council and have applied to the OSCR to close.

“We do not think the three projects are sustainable through the contract system and know that the furniture project in Arbroath will carry on where we left off.”

Mrs Ritchie said the well-used service has been successful due to the hard work of its volunteers and support from the public.

She continued: “I’m very grateful for all the hard work the wonderful staff and volunteers have given to the project to make it such a success. When the project is wound up the surplus finance will be donated to local charities.

“I would like to thank the public for all their support and kindness in donating furniture to help others over the past 10 years and hope they will continue to recycle through the Arbroath project after March.”