The Director of Neighbourhood Services reminded the Members that, at its April 2022 meeting, the Committee had approved the implementation of the large grant funding provided through Community Provision for activity from April 2023 – March 2026, this had included approval of the eligibility criteria and maximum allocation for each grant stream. He also drew the Members’ attention to specific details of the applications that had been assessed, scored, moderated and independently verified.
The Members were reminded that, at the October meeting, they had been informed that the requests for funding were in excess of the available budget and that officers would present options for how the budget could be allocated. This report had been due to be presented at the December meeting, where the Members had agreed to defer the report to enable further consideration of the budget implications. The Director reported that, at the January meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, it had been agreed to enhance the budget available for this area of work.
The Director continued that, in light of this additional allocation, there was now sufficient budget to allocate all applications scoring 50 and above the level of funding requested (up to the maximum allocation for each grant) and that there was also now sufficient budget to provide a nominal level of support to those applications that had scored below 50.
The Director then referred to the fact that the Members had previously raised concerns in relation to the varying levels of community capacity across the city. He advised that the scores achieved by organisations in this round of funding had been considerably higher than the last round and that a total of 24 new organisations would receiving support in this round of funding (8 – Capacity, 16 – Revenue) which officers were interpreting as an encouraging sign of increasing capacity in terms of applying for funding.
Members had also requested a breakdown on an area basis of the number of applications received. This had been provided within the updated report, however, the Members were advised that officers could only assign area based on the postal address of the organisation and that some organisations might deliver in areas outside of this, and indeed on a citywide basis.
An analysis showed that for the Capacity Programme, the highest number of eligible applications had been received from organisations based in the Castle, Botanic and Titanic DEAs. For the Revenue Grant Programme, the highest number of eligible applications had been received from organisations based in the Oldpark, Court and Blackmountain DEAs. The lowest number of eligible applications for the Capacity Programme had been received from organisations based in the Balmoral, Collin and Oldpark DEAs. For the Revenue Grant Programme the lowest number of eligible applications had been received from organisations based in the Lisnasharragh, Ormiston and Balmoral DEAs.
The Members were also asked to note that there had been a good representation across both grant programmes from organisations which served communities of interest in addition to those providing support on a geographic basis. For Capacity, 10 out of 42 (24%) and for Revenue, 31 out of 87 (36%) applications from community of interest focused organisations.
The Committee was advised that officers would continue to review in more depth the applications received from organisations across the city and would work in partnership with those funded organisations as well as other key partners to develop approaches to provide support to those geographic and thematic areas where applications had been of a lower level.
In terms of the applications for the range of broader Council small grants, the applications had closed on Friday, 13th January and had included the following Community Provision grant streams:
· Good Relations;
· Parks Events;
· Support for Sport Large Development Grant;
· Support for Sport Small Development Grant;
· Support for Sport Hospitality Grant;
· Support for Sport Sporting Individual Grant;
· Community Activity Medium Grant; and
· Community Activity Micro Grant.
The Director advised that initial indications had shown that the level of applications exceeded the available budget for a number of these grant streams. He stated that this was a positive sign as it showed that the sector had recovered capacity to apply for and deliver programmes across a range of service areas.
He reported that in most previous years small grants had been advertised in two Tranches, one for activity from April – September and the other from October – March. He advised that officers would provide further detail on the available budget when assessments and allocations had been completed but asked the Members to note that it was likely that many of the streams would not reopen as there would not be an available budget to support further grants.
The Director reminded the Members that, in addition to the Council funding, a portion of the Department for Communities (DfC) Community Support Programme budget had been allocated to provide funding for the Capacity and Revenue grant streams.
The Members were asked to note that these funding programmes were both awarded on a 3-year basis. The Council was in receipt of a two-year Letter of Offer for 2022/24 but there was no confirmation that the DfC funding would remain at the same level for 2024/26. He advised that the awards would be made based on the notional available budget for the 3 - year time-period, however, asked the Members to note that any reduction in the level of Community Support Programme funding in 2024/25 or 2025/26 might require an increased allocation from the Council. He advised that officers would seek early indications from the DfC in relation to the level of support that would be provided in the Letter of Offer for 2024/26. In addition, in order to mitigate against a significant reduction in the funding provided by the DfC, Letters of Offer would be issued to successful applicants on an annual basis. It was felt that this was good practice and would also provide an opportunity for organisations to reprofile their allocation on an annual basis following submission of monitoring information.
A Member highlighted his frustrations at the ongoing issues that some organisations and groups in parts of the city had with capacity and once again questioned how they could be assisted to optimise their ability to access the funding streams available.
During discussion the Members noted that there were often significant variances in the capacity from one group, or one area, to another, with many simply not having the expertise to fill in the application forms as they were such small groups/organisations.
Discussion also ensued regarding the geographical challenges, with differing levels of allocation across the District Electoral Areas (DEAs), with the Members highlighting within their own DEAS specific areas where there were low numbers of applications. The Members acknowledged that whilst the current model of administering Capacity and Revenue funding via an open call grants process was good practice and transparent, it did not however allow for low capacity issues to be adequately addressed.
During discussion, the Members agreed that it would be useful to receive a report that specifically considered the geographical challenges and lack of capacity in these areas and how these issues might be addressed. It was also agreed that a briefing note should be prepared and circulated to all the Members that would explain in detail the requirements of the current application process.
· agreed that the awards be issued at the level as outlined in the report for the 2023/24 year;
· granted approval for officers to progress with the funding allocation process, including processing funding agreements and ensuring all monitoring requirements were implemented;
· noted the impact that the high level of applications for small grants would have on available budgets and that it was likely that a number of community provision small grants would not be in a position to make a second call for funding for activity from October 2023 – March 2024;
· agreed that a report be submitted to a future meeting considering the geographical challenges and lack of capacity in certain areas and giving consideration as to how this could be addressed; and
· agreed that a briefing note be circulated to all Members that would explain in detail the requirements of the current application process.