REDDITCH'S voluntary and community groups have been dealt a severe blow - as the council said it will stop its rent reduction scheme.

Borough councillors have voted to reduce the council’s concessionary rents scheme over a course of three years.

The scheme currently entitles some voluntary and community sector (VCS) groups to a concessionary rate, in some cases providing a 70 per cent discount.

This will continue for one year, before reducing to a maximum of 50 per cent in the second year, and then finally to 20 per cent in the third year.

The decision was made at a meeting on Monday.

Cllr Matt Dormer, leader of the council, said: “Historically the concessionary rent scheme was a feasible way of working but our current situation means that we have to think sensibly about how this public money is distributed among the VCS and whether there are other, better, or more appropriate, funding streams which these groups would benefit from.

“We will support groups and organisations affected by the changes by gradually reducing this benefit over three years and will be allocating funding to assist with financial advice and problem solving.”

Councillors allocated a grant of £50,000 from this pot specifically for financial advice and problem solving for Redditch residents and groups.

The controversial move could see a number of groups, which provide vital services, forced to close.

One group, REACH CIC, which provides services to some of Redditch's most disadvantaged people, has called the plans "an assault on vulnerable people in Redditch".

The Advertiser has previously reported on the plans and the enormous public outcry that followed.

The council said groups affected will be able to bid for grants from Redditch Borough Council for support with core costs.