Review of existing community funding streams
The Cabinet Member for Communities supported by the Community Engagement and Policy Development Officer presented a report to Members which provided a review of existing community funding streams. There were currently three funding streams, which directly supported voluntary and community groups:
· SK Community Fund: annual funding pot of £100,000 from 2020/21 - this was open to applications from constituted community groups for capital projects and events. Awards were determined by a panel of elected Members, based on agreed criteria
· Ward Member Scheme: annual funding pot – originally set at £26,000 for 2020/21 but increased to £56,000 as a direct response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Awards were determined by individual elected Members; and
· Foodbank Support Fund 2020/2: one-off support fund of £15,000 for Foodbanks located within South Kesteven. Via the completion of a simple form, Foodbanks could access the fund which would support their operation in any way required and for any amount, whilst there was still budget remaining.
In addition to the three funding streams there was LotterySK, which provided a platform for groups to raise money through lottery ticket sales. 60p of every ticket sale went to support local voluntary and community groups. From each £1.00 ticket purchased, the group that the purchaser wished to support would receive 50p and the SK Community Fund would receive 10p. If no group was specified, then 60p would be allocated to the SK Community Fund.
It was the purpose of the report to focus specifically on the SK Community Fund and discuss its operation and impact. Members of the working group were asked to propose amendments to its criteria.
Background of the fund was provided to the Committee. The fund was established in 2015 and until March 2020 was administrated as part of a Service Level Agreement by Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service. The Fund was now managed directly by the Authority.
It was highlighted to members the types of projects that the fund supported and the level of grants which they were eligible to receive. The level of funding enabled applicants to seek up to 80% of the cost of their project. Since the introduction of the fund, 18 funding rounds had taken place and it had supported 93 capital projects and events.
As the agreement between South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire Community Voluntary Service had come to an end, alongside a reduction in the funding pot from £150,000 to £100,000, a sensible point to review the criteria of the fund had been identified. It was important that the fund continued to meet the needs of the community and the priorities of the Council.
Due to the impact of Covid-19, the review, which had been scheduled for March 2020, could not take place. At this point the fund had been temporarily closed to applications, until the necessary changes were able to take place.
Covid-19 had a significant impact on communities, both financially and emotionally. The proposals set out within the report were intended to strengthen the connection with the community groups. The proposed amendments were also intended to make the fund fit better with identified needs in local communities, supporting the constituted groups across the District.
Proposed changes to the criteria of the SK Community Fund, which required the Committee’s recommendation to Cabinet, were as follows.
· All applications would qualify for a grant up to £5,000 towards the cost of their project or event, which aligned all the different categories that qualified to apply
· Introduction of a new category which supported projects that addressed mental health, social and rural isolation and loneliness
· The claim period for awards to be reduced from two years to one, which provided parity with the budget processes
· The removal of parish and town councils from the eligibility criteria, as they had alternative means of raising revenue, such as the Town and Parish Precept.
Members were further asked to consider and make recommendations on the future operation of the Fund for 2021/22 onwards, based on the following options:
· To maintain the status quo, leaving the fund open to all eligible groups
· In the first year ringfence 20% of the Fund for applications relating to mental health and wellbeing, loneliness and isolation
· Increase focus on areas of priority and introduce a weighting mechanism for individual applications to score higher if the focus was on those priority areas
The Council was currently working in collaboration with the Lincolnshire Community Foundation (LCF). This was to raise funds via a Total Giving crowd funding initiative to support local groups, as a direct response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Council would undergo further exploration with LCF of options of a mutual benefit and would seek support to enter into an agreement if a suitable option was found.
It was highlighted to Members that a single grant register had been established, which was to reduce the risk of groups receiving double funding. SK Community Fund, Foodbank Support Fund and Ward Member Grant Scheme therefore could not unknowingly give grants to the same initiatives.
Members asked if many groups had applied for a £10,000 grant and if the maximum funds available were reduced to £5,000 what impact would it have. It was advised that recent figures showed 24 applications were received requesting £5,000 - £10,000, only four of which requested the full £10,000. Reducing the maximum grant would have the potential to assist more groups. The grants were to be applied for as ‘match funding’ and were not intended to cover the whole cost of any project.
Concern was expressed about smaller groups within the district, which perhaps did not have a constitution and few members to help support them. The Officer advised that should this be the case; the Council would be able to offer them advice on other routes they may take to receive funding or signpost them to support to put the appropriate governance in place. There were also funds available to ward members, who could use their own budgets to support those smaller groups.
It was queried if the reduction in maximum grant was introduced, would it reduce the application time and would groups receive grants sooner. As the administration of the fund had been brough back ‘in house’, this would considerably reduce the administration time, as information was not needed to be shared between organisations.
It was proposed and seconded that option 3 was the most favourable for the future operation of the fund in 2021/22, with priority areas receiving the fund’s focus. Members unanimously agreed with the recommendations set out in the report.