New £100k Fund to Support Small Community Groups

A NEW £100,000 fund to support small community groups in Reading deliver local projects is being proposed, as part of the Council’s new three year Medium Term Financial Plan.

The details of the how the fund will operate are still being worked up, but the intention is that small community groups or organisations in the town which are delivering projects that benefit local communities, will be able to bid for a grant of up to £5,000 each. The funding could be used for ‘one off’ projects, ‘start up’ costs, or to run events or buy equipment, for example.

Changes in 2016 saw the Council move from a grants-based process to a commissioning process for voluntary sector groups. Whilst this has delivered value for money and ensures alignment with the Council’s strategic priorities, it can mean smaller community groups sometimes miss out on possible opportunities for funding streams to larger and better established voluntary sector groups.

To redress the balance, the Council is now proposing a new £100,000 Community Grants Fund which will give it the flexibility to respond to requests from smaller local community groups and provide financial support for one-off initiatives that would be of benefit to Reading’s communities. If agreed as part of the Council’s budget setting process this month, there would be two bidding rounds each year, the first being held in June.

Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said:

“It is vital that as a Council we open doors for the many small community groups across Reading who want to deliver projects which benefit local communities in the town. The creation of this new £100,000 Community Grants Fund will create opportunities for those groups to progress small local projects which will make a big difference, but which they might otherwise not be able to.

“It can be easy to disregard the benefit these small local projects bring to communities, particularly when set against some of the more ‘big ticket’ budget lines, like the £9 million on repairing roads, or £40 million on leisure centres. We do not underestimate the huge impact that small voluntary organisations can make in communities, which is why this is a budget which delivers not only on the big issues people tell us they want tackled, but also the smaller projects which can make such a difference on the ground.

“There were more than 600 responses to the Council’s recent budget consultation and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond. Feedback I’ve received from the voluntary sector as part of the process, highlighted the need to create funding streams for some of Reading’s smaller community organisations. I’m pleased this newly created fund helps to deliver on that and will help benefit some of the lower income communities across Reading.”

Reading Borough Council’s budget for 2020-21 will be debated at a meeting of Full Council on Tuesday February 25th. The proposed budget for 2020-21, and the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy, will first be taken to meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on February 17th.

Oscar Mortali

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