Mixed News for Borough's Voluntary Groups
Anger at council decision - but good news for some
There has been mixed news for Hammersmith and Fulham's voluntary and community groups in the last week. While some were devastated to discover their funding has been removed as part of the council's cost-cutting policies, others breathed a sigh of relief as their funding for the next year was agreed.
H & F Council's Cabinet agreed an overall allocation of £4.2 million in the year 201//11 to the local voluntary sector, a reduction of £158,000.
Thirty five organisations were awarded a total of £2.6 million, including 14 receiving financial support for the first time. A second round of funding will allocate another £1.6 million later in the year.
Amongst the groups receiving their first funding are the Banooda Aid Foundation (£16,000), who run a supplementary school, mainly for Somali children. The Alzheimer’s Society was awarded £38,000 and Standing Together Against Domestic Violence received £30,000.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau received the biggest slice of cash (£318,263) and the 18 month old H&F Credit Union was awarded £31,500. The Challenge Network, which aims to inspire young people to volunteer and is seen as a pioneeer for the government's proposed national citizenship scheme received £112,500.
Some organisation, such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau, HAFAD and Bishop Creighton House in Lillie Road, had some applications for funding and others refused.
The successful groups, and the amounts allocated to them are:
However, the groups turned down for funding were:
Bishop Creighton House, CITAS, Firsthand Ltd, Grove Neighbourhood Centre, H&F BME Network, H&F Refugee Forum, Harmony Community Day Nursery, Minaret Community Centre, Play Association H&F, Pre-School Learning Alliance, Tendis Ltd, Townmead Youth Club, Active Planet, Afghan Council UK, Albert & Friends Instant Circus, Breakway Holiday Project, Community Advocacy Services, Goldseal Project, HAFAD, Hammersmith Gardens Community Association, Horn of Africa, Notting Hill Housing Trust, Outside Chance, Shepherd's Bush Families Project, Sir John Lillie Play Centre, Vince Hines Foundation, Vital Regeneration, Breakthrough Deaf & Hearing Intergration, Eastern European Advice Centre, FLAC, H&F Citizens Advice Bureau, H&F Law Centre, Iranian Association, Bosnia & Herzegovina Community Advice, H&F Community Transport Project and Rampage.
Details of the applications and the reasons for the Council's decisions can be found in the Cabinet meeting's agenda.
Some of these and other community groups have also been hit by the news that their premises, including Palingswick house in Hammersmith, which is home to 21 different groups, the Village Hall in Shepherd's Bush and Sands End Community Centre in Fulham may be sold to pay off council debts. The council says that sale of nine under-used buildings could raise #20 million.
The second round of funding to retender the remainder of the budget will be advertised later this year.
H&F Credit Union was awarded £31,500 for its work in helping people manage their finances in difficult times. Manager Cheryl Gale, said: ”We are absolutely thrilled that the council has awarded us such a large grant. The council has always provided us with magnificent support and it is that assistance that consolidates us in the borough.
"The Credit Union helps people save money which they can then spend on their families. People can then use that cash to avoid taking out another loan from an unscrupulous lender who may trap them into debt. Some of our members are people who withdraw their benefits from the Post Office and then end up spending all of their money. No matter who you are cash burns a hole in your pocket. We offer advice, a bit of re-education and ideas on how people can save or we will lend them money at a fair rate."
Leader of the Council, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh was the first person to join H&F Credit Union. He said: "High levels of personal debt is one of the pathways to poverty for many people and is one of the most serious social problems facing us today. The credit union is a fantastic place for savers and I am sure that it will go from strength to strength over the coming months and years.” Read more on the Credit Union's grant.
Challenge Network received £112,500. Craig Morley, Chief Executive said: "This is absolutely fanstastic news. This funding will allow us to inspire young people across Hammersmith & Fulham to make a real difference to their communities. We are very grateful to the council for their support."
Fourth highest voluntary sector spend in London
The council says its appreciation of the role the voluntary sector plays in the borough is reflected in the fact that it spends significantly more on the voluntary sector than the majority of London councils (see table below) and points out that other boroughs have cut their grants budgets by 50% or 60%
H&F is 4th in highest in terms of spend per head - £26 per person, compared to £9 per person in Ealing and just £1 per person in Havering.
More for less
However, it says that, as the council has to find £55 million in savings over the next three years, all groups have to follow the council's lead in doing more fore less. Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, says; "The national economic crisis means we have to radically rethink how we provide services and we expect the organisations we fund to do likewise. We are, however, asking third sector organisations to share less of the budget reduction than other council services - only £158k ."
Protecting the grants budget by selling buildings
"In a totally unprecedented move, we have stated very publicly that we will put services before buildings," adds Cllr Greenhalgh. "To protect frontline services, including the grants budget, we are consulting on selling nine buildings that are either underused or provide poor value for money. The voluntary sector is hugely important in supporting local residents, but in these difficult times we must all do more for less."
The council says these buildings could raise an estimated £20 million which would contribute towards paying off council debt and cutting interest repayments. Rental payments will also be saved. In total £2.5 million in cash would be freed – money we would otherwise have to find from existing budgets.
The council has shrunk its use of space by 40 per cent already with asset sales of £42 million. Now the council is asking voluntary groups to do the same.
Working with us
Cllr Greenhalgh said; "The majority of groups recognise the financial crisis we are all in and are constructively working with us to protect local services.
Forty two community groups have also been awarded £100,000 worth of small grants under the council’s Fast Track grants scheme.
In addition, the council says it is pursuing additional sources of external funding for the voluntary sector and hopes to have a positive announcement imminently.
One of the organisations recommended for approval as part of the grants report will provide other third sector organisations with tailored help with fund-raising and securing other sources of financial backing.
The latest comparative figures for voluntary sector budgets are for 2008-09