Up to 45,000 school children will lose access to outdoor activities as a charity is on the brink of collapse.
Wide Horizons, a charity that provides outdoor adventure activities, has announced that it is going into administration as of July 31 if it cannot raise £200,000.
The charity, which is based in Eltham, claims it was under the impression it was going to receive a £200,000 grant from Greenwich council, but town hall chiefs informed them that they would not receive this funding on Tuesday.
Up to 75 jobs are set to be axed along with the closure of nine centres across London.
John Miller, Wide Horizons sales and marketing director, said: “We had to tell the staff on Tuesday. There were a lot of tears, a lot of anger.
“We were under the impression that the money was secured.
“Everybody here believes that outdoor adventures is an integral part of a child’s education.”
The Wide Horizons initiative was started in 2004 by Greenwich and Lewisham council.
Scores of schools across London, from Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley in particular, use the charity’s facilities for outdoor school trips.
But they have seen a fall in the number of children using their services, which Mr Miller said is linked to falling school budgets and less disposable income in households.
They started devising a plan to restructure the business at the turn of the year to make savings and ensure the survival of the charity.
Wide Horizons chief executive Peter Rodgers said: “It’s tragic really. The council only took the decision yesterday not to provide the loan, having known for four months that we would have to close without it.
“We are bitterly disappointed as they had implied right up until yesterday that they would support us. As it stands, unless we can find £200,000 in the next week to match the £200,000 that has already been pledged by our other supporters we will have to close.”
Councillor Danny Thorpe, Greenwich council leader, said: “Just before the turn of the year Greenwich and Lewisham Councils underwrote a £1.4m loan to Wide Horizons based upon a new business model, but only a few months later the charity came back asking for an additional £400,000 as they were experiencing financial difficulty.
“Our assessment was that the additional funding would only keep the charity afloat until the end of this year, so we made it clear then that we could not provide more funding unless they developed a more sustainable business model. To claim we made a “last minute u-turn” is just plain wrong.
“Despite numerous requests, the charity submitted their proposals to us less than 48 working hours before a deal needed to be reached. Unfortunately it was clear that the proposed business model was not sustainable and that, with significant levels of overheads, it was not in the taxpayers best interests to provide any further financial assistance.
“The organisation, and its staff in particular, have provided a valuable service for children in the borough, so we are bitterly disappointed with this outcome. We will make sure the sites we own are protected and will explore options for them to continue to be used to provide outdoor education opportunities.
“We will liaise with schools in September and work towards a long-term sustainable solution. However, we have to spend our limited resources wisely and cannot continue to bail out a charity that clearly does not know how to manage its finances.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.