WILL Straw, who will stand for Labour in Rossendale at the next General Election, has praised volunteers in the borough.

Mr Straw, who will oppose Tory Jake Berry for the constituency seat, which also includes Darwen, made a speech at the Labour Party conference after writing a chapter for a book.

Speaking at a fringe event organised by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), Mr Straw, son of Blackburn MP Jack, praised organisations in Rossendale.The event marked the launch of ACEVO's ‘Red Book of the Voluntary Sector’ to which Will Straw has contributed a chapter on the impact of the cuts to the Community and Voluntary Service in Rossendale.

He highlighted the work of the White Horse Project, Stubbylee Community Greenhouses and Newground among others for the role they play tackling social deprivation and giving young people a brighter start in life, carrying out public services formerly managed by the council and helping many people with mental health issues or disabilities on the road back to work.

But he warned that many other charities, including REAL Rossendale had been forced to cut staff and end important programmes due to major cuts to funding.

He criticised the removal of grants from funding bodies which supported vital administrative functions and the inadequacies in the government’s welfare-to-work programme which were not suited to charities. Mr Straw said: “The charity and voluntary sector is rich in Rossendale and creates a deep sense of community.

“These groups undertake a huge variety of activities, including providing youth groups, social activities for people with mental health issues and disabilities, and stepping in where council cuts have removed services.

“Throughout, they give their volunteers a sense of dignity and self-reliance.

“But many of these groups are living a hand-to-mouth existence and those funding pools that are left do not support what is needed.

“It is about time that the volunteers of East Lancashire and the rest of Britain were given the support they truly deserve.”