Funding Increases for Voluntary Groups Across Reading
Reading Borough Council is planning to increase the total amount of funding it gives to the town’s many voluntary groups in the coming year as a sign of its on-going commitment to the sector, and in recognition of the vital role they play in the Reading community.
At a time when tough economic challenges mean many local authorities nationwide are cutting funding to voluntary organisations, the Council will actually be increasing money going towards the voluntary and community sector from £6,818,281 million in the current year, to £7,039,519 million in financial year 2011/12.
The total amount is made up of direct grants to voluntary groups and revenue contracts with community organisations who carry out valuable work for the Council, which in turn help to deliver key objectives for the town. Also – for the first time – a funding pot of £100,000 has been set aside by the Council to fund capital projects for the voluntary and community sector in Reading. All groups in Reading will be able to bid for a share of the money to help pay for their key projects.
This new money is in addition to the £220,000 Reading Borough Council has confirmed this year to bring the Central Club back into community use, working in close collaboration with the Reading African and Caribbean Community Association (Reading’s Central Club has been empty since 2005 and since that time the structure has deteriorated to such an extent that independent experts estimate it will cost around £675,000 to bring back into public use. In November last year Reading Borough Council Current agreed to put forward £220,000 towards the cost of the refurbishment, on the condition that the Reading African Caribbean Community Association (ACCG) raises the remaining balance to enable the building to brought back into community use once more. If the funding is raised, the fully refurbished building would however remain in the ownership of Reading Borough Council).
An additional £382,000 is also provided in the form of low cost accommodation for local groups.
In the past voluntary sector organisations have traditionally applied for funding for the year ahead in a single annual grant round. Changes to the way organisations in Reading apply have been introduced this year however to provide greater flexibility, more transparency and greater consistency of funding opportunities open to all organisations.
It means frequent funding opportunities throughout the course of the year for a wider range of voluntary and community sector groups in Reading. It also means the Borough Council can choose to direct funding towards ever-changing priority areas and to areas of work which will benefit the town the most and offer the best possible value for money to the council tax payer.
Out of the £7,039,519 million funding pot for 2011/12, £1,440,000 is going towards voluntary and community sector grants, with £5,279,518 million funding revenue contracts with voluntary and community groups who carry our key work in the community. This is up from a figure of £4,310,490 million last year.
Reading Borough Council Leader Andrew Cumpsty said: “This news highlights our Administration’s commitment to the voluntary and community sector in Reading. I committed us to at least maintain funding and we have gone beyond that by increasing it in the budget for the year ahead.
“We will be giving more money in total; we will be giving it to more organisations across all communities in Reading; and for the first time voluntary and community groups will be able to apply for capital grants, to help them maintain the places where they deliver their services and help to the people of Reading.
“In tough economic conditions, this illustrates our strong support form the voluntary and community sector and we have put our money where our mouth is by investing in the people and groups who are the backbone of our communities in Reading.”
Jeanette Skeats, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Communities, Voluntary Sector and Enterprise, said: ‘At a time when funding to the voluntary sector across the country is at risk, I’m delighted that here in Reading the money going towards these key organisations will actually be increased over the coming year.
‘The work voluntary groups carry out in out in communities across the town is admirable and the value of the work they carry out cannot be underestimated. We want to see all that good work continue in future years which is why we are backing them in this budget.’
In addition to the £7 million-plus finding pot and the £100,000 for capital projects, a further £81,000 revenue commitment has been made by the Council to fund voluntary sector programmes which will be widely publicised.
The proposed funding package for the voluntary sector will go to a meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Cabinet on January 17 for discussion.
Richard Corbett, Director of Reading Voluntary Action, said: ‘I am pleased to hear that the overall level of voluntary sector funding will be maintained next year. This is good news relative to other areas where significant reductions are currently being reported.’
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