A COMMUNITY project which spent £7,000 on new office furniture and computers has been forced to fold just months later for lack of funding.

The Starlight Community Project in Oxford spent £11,500 from the European Social Fund on computer, literacy and numeracy classes in January last year in Greater and Blackbird Leys.

It then got another £7,000 grant from UKOnline and local charity Feoffees for new desks, chairs, six computers and other office furniture to help run more courses.

But the project coordinator said they would stop in March as the scheme was not able to secure long-term funding.

The computers and furniture are to be given to community newspaper Leys News, which will take over the space formerly used by the project at the Kingfishers Green base in Greater Leys.

Coordinator Sue Funge said she had written to every organisation she could think of, including Prime Minister David Cameron, to ask for money to fund the scheme.

She said the constant pursuit of funds was beginning to affect her own life and finances.

Miss Funge said: “It felt a relief when we decided to close it. We couldn’t carry on. It takes so long to apply for all these grants and there is so much competition these days.

“If we had sustainable funding I would have been happy to carry on. We gave people confidence and tried to get them paid work. It gave us the chance to break the cycle of deprivation on the estate.”

Miss Funge said grants from public bodies dried up because of the Government squeeze on spending, and because private funds were giving out less as interest rates had fallen, hitting their income.

“When people have been unemployed, going back to work is a big step. People don’t recognise that, it impacts upon your self esteem and self confidence,” she said.

“We helped them recognise that they have got skills to offer employers. This sort of on-the-ground service does need to be provided on an estate like Blackbird Leys.

“It’s having a friendly little place to come to, like a stepping stone, to make it easier to take that first step back to work rather than walking through the gates of some institution.”

The project needed about £25,000 a year to run.

Cash pledged by Blackbird Leys Parish Council and Oxford Brookes University was welcome but would not cover core costs and would only be paid at the end of courses, Miss Funge said.

About 100 people have been helped on the courses in the year the project was running, with some going on to study at the Open College Network and Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.

Charlotte Linacre, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said there were a number of initiatives to help the unemployed back to work, and the tax- payer could not afford to cover the costs for everything.