COMMUNITY grants for children's services have been slashed by ten per cent as part of Barnet Council's efficiency drive to cut costs.

Dozens of community and voluntary groups across Barnet are likely to have their funding stopped or reduced following the £10,859 cut.

Barnet cabinet voted unanimously to authorise the move last night.

They also agreed to move the remaining £97,735 budget from the Grants Unit to the Children's Service, meaning organisations will no longer be able to apply for funding.

Instead, the council will employ a "needs analysis" system to determine what services best serve the community. It will then commission and fund certain groups to provide those services.

A letter addressed to all grant-funded organisations, from the Community Grants and Charitable Awards Unit, states: "We will no longer provide revenue funding for services for children and young people, with the exception of start-up funding and one-off grants.

"That does not mean your funding will automatically stop, though it will almost certainly be reduced.

"It will be a decision for commissioners in the Children's Services as to how to use the funds in the future.

"This may mean continued funding for your organisation or it may mean that the funds are used to purchase other services."

Organisations affected by the cuts include the Barnet Somali Community Group, Barnet Action 4 Youth, Barnet Cypriot Youth Club, Hendon Sea Training Corps, and several regional playschemes and toddler groups.

Anne Hutton, Labour spokeswoman for children's services, feared the new system would cause some organisations to fold.

She added: "This is the reality of the national Tory policy to cut ten per cent from public services being implemented by the local Tories on our doorstep.

"It is yet another attack on the most needy in our community and reflects the ongoing erosion of services as envisaged by the Tories' Future Shape programme."

Valerie Lay, play leader for Stonegrove Playschemes, based at the Broadfields School, in Broadfields Avenue, Edgware, voiced concern that her group may have to close down.

The scheme has been in operation for 30 years and relies heavily on its £1,000 annual income from the Grants Unit.

She said: "We are completely reliant on this money. Last year we applied to four or five charities for extra funding, but only one replied, giving us £375.

"We see it as our regular funding now and we would be devastated if it stopped. We probably wouldn't be able to run the senior group at all, and would have to put up fees so much that people might not come back.

"That would be terrible for the kids. This is the only summer holiday a lot of them get."

Councillor Fiona Bulmer, cabinet member for children's services, defended the change in service provision.

She stressed that the ten per cent cut would be retained by the Grants Unit and redistributed.

"In the current difficult economic climate, all organisations are having to look at efficiency savings and this is part of that approach," she said.

"The evidence from across the public sector is that commissioning improves services and delivers efficiency savings.

"What this means in Barnet is that we will use our analysis of local need, including areas such as disability and disadvantage, and set out a specification of the services needed to support those children.

"One key advantage of moving to commissioning is that it allows longer term funding, usually three year contracts, rather than making groups apply for funds every year.

"I am confident that this approach will allow us to improve services and benefit more children in Barnet.”