Reading Borough Council Press Release
Voluntary groups based in the town are set to benefit from a step change in the way the Council distributes funding to them. The proposed approach will take into account their vital local knowledge of working in communities across Reading and, at the same time, help to safeguard the future of local voluntary groups.
A report going before a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Cabinet on July 16 outlines the Council’s on-going commitment to maintaining its level of spending on voluntary and community groups across Reading even in these tough economic times.
The Cabinet report also details the proposed reinstatement of the annual process of grants applications. This is the process whereby local voluntary groups bid for funding from Reading Borough Council in order to deliver key services to the local community. This annual process of grant applications was suspended two years ago in favour of a more contractual relationship between the Council and voluntary groups. However, experience has shown that this has been less effective in delivering the Council’s priorities.
If agreed, the move back towards an annual grants process will help protect local voluntary and community groups by taking into account the ‘added value’ their knowledge and experience of working in local communities across Reading brings.
While the grants process is ring-fenced for local voluntary and community organisations, they will continue to be able to bid for contracts for services specified by Reading Borough Council as part of a tender process and in competition with others.
Jan Gavin, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Community Involvement and Service Improvement, said: ‘I cannot emphasise enough the real value that local voluntary groups bring to our communities and this move back towards an annual grants process is in recognition of that. Their experience of working with Reading communities means they bring to the table a level of knowledge and skills that make a real difference to local people.
‘At a time when difficult economic conditions mean many local authorities are choosing to cut back on voluntary sector funding, I’m also pleased this report reiterates this Council’s on-going commitment to local voluntary groups by maintaining its level of spending.’
In 2011/12, £1.5m was brought in by local groups via successful external funding bids, in addition to volunteer hours, as well as bringing vital knowledge and experience of local communities. In addition, support for volunteering, community capacity building, community cohesion and promoting sustainability are all areas where the local voluntary sector provides added value.
The report to Cabinet also outlines the changes that will affect the direct relationship between the Council and funded services. An example is the increased use of personal budgets which mean that the client makes the choice about the service to purchase, not the Council. In these instances clients could, for example, decide not to seek help from a voluntary organisations. Council officers will also analyse spending to help better understand the financial pressures faced by the sector and how Council resources can be best directed.
If the Cabinet report is agreed applications for grants for 2013/2014 will be available by the end of August, for an October deadline.