Council hands £1.5m of funding over to community control

An independent board of community champions could soon be in charge of £1.5m of funding for local communities, under proposals being considered by the council’s Cabinet.

Civic Centre in Southend

Cabinet councillors are set to consider proposals to overhaul the council’s current system of allocating funding to the third sector by creating a Community Investment Board, that would oversee the distribution of £1.5m over a three year period.

Under the proposals, a new independent Community Investment Board, made up of 15 people who use services and their families, supported by Southend Association of Voluntary Services, would allocate funding from a single pot of money covering a three-year period. The fund would replace all existing grants for community activity and follows a consultation which took place with the voluntary and community sector.

At present, the Council allocates around £1.5m through two different funding streams - one-off “in-year” grants and three-yearly “community grants” - with decisions made by councillors upon council officers’ recommendations. The organisations that receive grants currently include those tackling homelessness, promoting healthy activity, tackling drug and alcohol addiction and delivering cultural services.

It is anticipated that the board would be made up of people who use the types of services that the fund commissions, though people with connections to the council or local charities would be barred from sitting on the board to maintain its impartiality. They would be expected to award the funding in line with the agreed outcomes in the Southend 2050 vision.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “These proposals are all about putting local people in the driving seat and creating a culture of collaboration to deliver real impact for the local community. 

“We want to make sure that our commissioning of services enables the voice of residents to be clearly heard and valued, to support people and communities to be resilient and independent and to deliver better outcomes for everyone who lives in or visits Southend.

“We have seen the huge response of the community, of our own staff and of staff across social care providers in Southend to the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to build on this appetite for change and this model for the community supporting the community.”

Kristina Jackson, chief executive of Southend Association of Voluntary Services said: “We’re really excited about this opportunity to implement genuine community control and participation. We know people in Southend support each other – this would be the next step on that journey of mutual aid.”

In order to allow time to roll out the new grant system, cabinet councillors will also be asked to extend grants to current recipients for a further six months.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s cabinet will consider the proposals when they meet Tuesday 3 November.

You can view the full report here.

Published: 30th October 2020

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