A CHARITY serving nearly 15,000 people a year faces a battle to survive in the wake of falling grants and increasing rent demands.
Staff and volunteers at Hounslow Multicultural Centre dish out more than 5,400 meals a year to elderly and disabled residents at their cramped base in Jersey Road, Hounslow.
The trust, founded in 1981, also runs music classes and keep-fit sessions as well as offering translation services and language classes for non-English speakers of all ages, among other services.
But the centre's annual council grant has fallen steadily from a high of £33,000 in the early 90s to just £18,000 and this year, for the first time, it will be expected to pay a subsidised rent on the council-owned building from which it operates.
The charity submitted a petition at last month's borough council meeting signed by more than 600 regular users calling on the council for more support and, eventually, a new home in the town centre.
HMC chairwoman Navtej Toor said: "We're busy seven days a week, we help so many people and we're looking to expand. But rather than trying to help us as we try to help the community they (Hounslow Council) are tying our hands behind our back, leaving us with a very uncertain future, especially in these times of recession when everyone is struggling to make ends meet."
Although the centre's annual grant has fallen steadily over the last two decades, it has remained at £18,000 throughout the reign of the current Tory-led administration.
The council also recently provided an extra £7,000 from 'underspend' in other departments to support the charity, which costs £70,000 a year to run. However, councils were recently ordered by the Government to achieve 'market value' for all publicly-owned properties, which equates to £17,000 a year for the HMC's home.
The council has offered to subsidise four fifths of the annual bill, but that will still leave the centre more than £3,000 out of pocket should it sign the lease being offered.
Councillor Gerald McGregor, Hounslow's lead member for finance, described the centre as a 'hugely important resource' and said he would continue to work closely with staff to ensure its future should the existing administration remain in power come May 7.
He added that a wide-ranging review of the council's grant-giving system was underway to ensure the money went to the most deserving groups.
Hounslow Council recently announced an extra £550,000 for community groups as part of this year's budget.
Councillor McGregor urged clubs and charities to get in touch to see how they could get hold of some of that cash as part of the council's new commissioning process.