THE AMOUNT spent by the council on women's refuges has been halved in seven years with nearly 80 per cent of requests for shelter turned down last quarter.

In 2009 Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) pumped £143,000 into women's refuges.

By 2016 the figure had fallen to £70,000, with overall funding for domestic violence services dropping 47 per cent from 2011/12 to 2016/17.

The cuts came as Thames Valley Police recorded a 6.5 per cent increase in domestic crimes and incidents in Wokingham and Bracknell in the three years from 2014.

Despite a significantly reduced budget, Berkshire Women's Aid - which runs the town's refuges - has maintained the number of spaces in its homes by cutting staff.

Chief executive Liz Terry, also a councillor for Reading Borough, said: "To be fair to BFC and the staff they are aware that there is a real balancing act.

"The demand for referrals has been going up and up and up. In Bracknell in particular.

"There has been a 25 increase in referrals July to September compared to the same period last year."

Although Cllr Terry described the funding cuts as "a bit of a blow", she said the goodwill of volunteers had allowed the service to keep going.

Regardless, 11 of 14 requests for refuge made from July to September this year in Bracknell were turned down, eight because there was no space.

Cllr Iain McCracken, executive member for culture, corporate services and public protection, said: “Bracknell Forest Council has ensured the number of places for those fleeing domestic violence in the borough has not reduced. The council has achieved this through working closely with partners to access alternative funding sources to ensure this vital service remains in place.

“The council is committed to working with its partners to ensure those experiencing domestic violence feel able to report incidents and are positively supported. This support, as well as proactive work with perpetrators of domestic violence, increases the number of initial incidents reported, which accounts for the rise in domestic violence cases reported to the Thames Valley Police.

"Working in partnership with other organisations to support domestic violence victims and perpetrators has been shown to minimise the number of repeat incidents, we have therefore been able to target our support and increase funding specifically for independent domestic violence advisors (IDVA) which assess and address the safety of victims at high risk of harm to secure their safety.”

The amount BFC spent on IDVAs has remained static since 2011/12 at £32,000, equating to nearly a £4,000 real terms funding decrease once inflation is taken into account.