Senior managers go in revamp of Winchester charity group WACA

Basingstoke Gazette: Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Barry Lipscomb, left, welcoming WACA chief executive Paul Williams to the Colebrook Centre in 2011 Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Barry Lipscomb, left, welcoming WACA chief executive Paul Williams to the Colebrook Centre in 2011

WINCHESTER Area Community Action is embarking on an extensive restructuring and cost-cutting programme brought on by a decline of money in the charitable sector and the city council changing how it distributes funding.

Both Chief Executive Officer Paul Williams and his deputy Elizabeth McKerracher will leave in weeks.

In an additional bid to reduce overheads, WACA, which has a turnover of around £1m, plans to move from its current offices at Winchester City Council to rooms at the Discovery and Brooks centres in July.

None of the other 30 existing staff will leave, and trustee chairman Trevor Lewis has stressed that all aspects of support the organisation currently provides to its membership of over 230 charities and small voluntary causes will continue.

“When Paul joined WACA in 2009, the role of CEO was different to the role today,” he said.

“Then the emphasis was on ensuring that the voice of the voluntary sector was heard by those responsible for strategic planning in our community and for making the decisions that impact the lives of the vulnerable.

“However, with the reductions in grant funding and the move to commissioning, the emphasis shifts from representation and voice, to operational activities and WACA has to restructure to reflect the funding environment.

“There will be a change in our structure but we will be delivering proactive services to all our members, large and small, as we always have.”

Winchester City Council has decided to put its charity volunteer work for the next financial year - usually given to WACA - out to tender for the first time.

Mr Lewis said that, because of the restructuring, they were not in a position to bid for this, but fully intended to for 2015/16.

He said that, following the departures of Williams and McKerracher, two senior part-time jobs would be merged and the organisation’s trustees become much more involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Mr Lewis was keen to assure the public that the Dial-a-Ride, Community Transport, Shopmobility, Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling and Hampshire Independent Sexual Violence Advice services will all continue as usual.

A key WACA role providing its members with advice, training and help gaining funding, volunteers and trustees will also carry on as usual.

Mr Williams has been the voice of WACA for the past five years, during which time membership numbers have almost doubled. He leaves to begin work with Winchester University.

He said: “WACA runs specialist projects that really transform people’s lives – like helping visually impaired people to use computers effectively and people with learning difficulties to get their voices heard.

“These are really valuable community services that WACA is determined that Winchester will not lose.”

Hampshire County Council intends to make its usual grant to WACA as in previous years.

Winchester City Council was approached but declined to comment.

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