Age UK in Cliftonville has been in talks about the sale of its site in Zion Place to Aldi but a deal has not yet been signed.
The organisation has been based at Randolph House since a transfer of the land from Thanet council in 1996 which coincided with the sale of adjoining plots to Aldi and Stanley Casinos. According to Land Registry the freehold, worth £500,000, was then registered to Thanet Age UK in 2017.
It is thought the building, which is at the rear of the Aldi site, may now be too large for the service. A statement from Age UK says services continue as usual and closure is not planned, with trustees stressing that despite negotiations no decisions have been made.
End of the grant system
The talks coincide with news that Kent County Council is changing the funding for services, including those for older people, from grants to contracts which will have to go through a tender process.
The KCC grant for 2018 was £203,886 but as from March 31 2020 the grant, along with those to other services, will stop and be replaced by service contracts.
Age UK can bid for the contract but success is not guaranteed.
The Thanet branch had an overall income in 2018 of £745,398, down from £912,089 in 2017. Expenditure amounted to £831,375 resulting in a deficit of £85,977 in contrast to a surplus of £6,911 the year before.
In the 2018 end of year statement the Thanet Age UK trustees say: “In the coming year Age UK Thanet will be facing major changes to the way we are funded due to KCC stopping the grant funding.
“We are striving to ensure our services become financially self-sufficient. Other factors including the rise in the national living wage and work place pensions will also have a major impact to our costs. This will have to be reflected in our pricing strategy. However, we still remain committed to meeting our communities changing needs to ensure that services remain available.”
Income is also raised through donations, legacies and trading -such as through charity shops.
County council contracts
Kent County Council confirmed letter have been sent to providers of services for older people, people living with dementia, people with sensory impairments and people living with a physical disability, to inform them of the proposed change to contracts.
A spokesman for Kent County Council (KCC) said: “KCC currently funds a number of voluntary organisations across the county, including Age UK, through a grant system, of which some are awarded on an annual basis. There are some historic grants which fund services to older residents, people living with dementia, people with sensory impairments and people living with a physical disability. Support includes befriending, voluntary transport and day care.
“The historic nature of these grants means that there is an inequity of funding and service provision across the county. KCC policy is clear all grant and contracting arrangements should be awarded through an open application process; these grants however are not compliant with that policy.
“The council has been working to design a range of community-based services for the future which will be funded through new arrangements over a longer period of between five and six years. Services will be focused on enabling people to remain well and independent.
“This will give commissioned providers long term financial stability, support development and innovation in services and ensure the performance of services can be monitored more effectively. This will mean all historic grants will come to an end by March 31, 2020.”
KCC is now talking to service providers and will be talking with people and their carers. A formal public consultation will take place before any final decisions are made.
The spokesman added: “We expect new arrangements to be in place by April 1, 2020.”