Grant Process (Agenda Item 7)
To receive a presentation from the Executive Member of Place, Councillor Lynda Turner and the Communities Manager, Steve James.
The Executive Member for Place invited the Communities Manager to give Members a presentation on the Grant process (copy attached).
He gave some background information on the different grants that were available which were:
· Match Funding – providing up to 50% costs for projects up to £5,000 and 30% for projects over that amount.
· Pride – (Money from 2nd Homes Council Tax) providing up to 100% of project costs.
· Gifted and Talented – grants up to £500 usually to support people engaged in sports at National / International level.
· Access Arts – grants up to £500 to encourage creativity.
· Policy DC11 – money from developers for outdoor sports and children’s play ‘free to access’ facilities.
The decision had been taken in November 2015 to transfer the processing of grant applications to the Norfolk Community Foundation (NCF). They could provide comprehensive support to applicants and also signpost other funding opportunities.
They had put forward some recommendations to improve the grant scheme which included fast-tracking for applications for DC11 money where only one Expression of Interest was received in relation to a particular parish cluster.
The Council also had contracts to part fund 25 Community Car Schemes. Each contract had a ceiling amount of funding and some of the schemes had overspent. A review would be carried out to determine if the ceiling limit should be raised.
Members were asked to signpost the guidance notes on the website and advise potential applicants to contact the NCF for advice.
The Chairman invited Members to comment on the grant process and reminded them that they also had the opportunity to ask questions of the Executive Member for Place as she was present.
Councillor Joel asked if the NCF made decisions on grant applications up to £5,000.
It was confirmed that the Council still made the decision for all applications. Councillor S Chapman-Allen explained that previously applications had been circulated to Executive Members and there had been a points system to grade them. Now, if the application met the required criteria it was forwarded to the Executive Members for discussion and decision.
The Chairman asked what benefit there was to the Council in using NCF and what their service cost.
The Communities Manager advised that there had previously been a Grants Officer post which was no longer required. The money from that post paid for NCF and provided a £6,500 per year saving. The Council paid 5% of NCF costs and also had the wider benefit of their knowledge.
Councillor Sharpe noted that there was a ceiling of £20,000 for large grants. However, he was aware that the Council had previously provided much more than that and he asked if NCF were aware that there was flexibility. He was also concerned that the Community Car Scheme was at risk because NCF were enforcing the ceiling. He asked when that figure would be reviewed.
The Communities Manager explained that NCF would transfer any applications to the Council which fell outside the normal grant scheme. He also said that it was right for the Council to enforce the Car Scheme ceiling as it was part of the contract terms. However, individual scheme organisers had been advised to contact the Council if they had problems.
Councillor Hollis asked if grant applications could still be made through the Council’s website and she asked for specific help for a sports club that needed repairs.
The Communities Manager said that applications could be made through either the Council’s or NCF’s websites. NCF would help with the application process and he asked Councillor Hollis to test the process and contact NCF for assistance as that was what the Council was paying for and to let him know if she had any problems. He reiterated that information and guidance was available on the website.
Councillor M Chapman-Allen asked when the new process would be scored for Value for Money and the Executive Member for Place advised that that would be part of the review process. Members’ views would be taken into account and she would be happy to bring it back to Scrutiny.
Councillor Wilkinson confirmed that the information on the website was very easy to follow and that Breckland Youth Advisory Board had used NCF for some years very successfully.
Councillor Bishop asked if there was a ceiling for capital grants and she was advised that there was not, but that a robust business case would be needed and the application would have to meet the relevant criteria.
Councillor Jermy recalled that the decision to use NCF had been agreed at Cabinet and one reason had been the potential to leverage other funds as well as the Council's. He asked if that would be a key factor in determining its success and whether Members would be given information on the criteria used for assessing its success.
The Communities Manager confirmed that leverage would be taken into account and figures would be compared to previous years.
Councillor Jermy was concerned about the time it took for some DC11 grants to be approved and the Communities Manager explained the two step process which was aimed at trying to speed up the release of money and to promote the availability of the funding as widely as possible. Initially a brief expression of interest was invited. Those that did not meet the criteria were spared having to fill out the full application form.
Councillor Jermy said that he had attended a Community Action Norfolk meeting and he asked why the Council did not support them financially.
It was noted that they had not applied for a grant.
The Chairman asked why a two stage system was needed for DC11 grants and it was clarified that for parish clusters with no competing grant the money would be paid without delay. However, in areas where there were competing grants more information was needed to make a decision on which project to support.
In response to a question from Councillor Matthews the Communities Manager confirmed that some Community Car Schemes did not draw down the money allocated for them. They would be written to to find out if they were still active and if not the money would be allocated elsewhere.
Councillor R Richmond was concerned for Community Car Schemes which were operated by volunteers and did a very useful job. He hoped that extra money could be found for them.
The Communities Manager agreed and said that they were trying to work out future needs. At the moment over-spends were being met from within budget, but he wanted to encourage awareness of each scheme’s budget and how it was progressing so that problems could be identified early.
The Executive Member for Place clarified that the schemes were only part-funded, not owned, by Breckland.
The Chairman thanked the Executive Member and the Officers for their presentation.