Conservative members of the Executive Committee of Redditch Borough Council have recently supported innovative and transparent plans to move control over the Borough Council’s grant system away from a committee and into the hands of democratically-elected Councillors by creating a ‘Ward Fund’ for each Councillor – meaning areas like Church Hill and Batchley & Brockhill will benefit from up to £15,000 per year to invest into good causes around those areas in proposals to be voted on by Full Council in November.
If Full Council supports the plans at the vote in November, each Councillor will be given access to a £5,000 ‘pot’ to distribute around their wards on good causes – this is commonly referred to as the Voluntary & Community Sector (VCS). Under the existing scheme any VCS organisations have to fill out a complicated form and submit to a confusing grants panel process. Redditch Conservatives have put forward plans to scrap this so that VCS organisations can instead approach their local Councillors to access potential funding streams.
If the plans are agreed by Full Council, Councillors will undergo training to support them in assessing bids for their ‘pots’ and there will be requirements for each bid to meet before funds can be released. For instance, anyone bidding for funds would need to be set up as an organisation (such as a charity or CIC) rather than applying on an individual basis. Details of every penny allocated by Councillors will be published on the Borough Council’s website for all to see as part of the transparency requirements.
Speaking about the plans, Councillor David Bush said:
“For years we have had a grants system that favours organisations who are really good at submitting the detailed and complicated paperwork. This system will make it far easier for smaller charities and good causes to access small pots of money that will make a big difference.”
“The system will be clear and transparent, and it will encourage local councillors and local good causes to get to know each other and build relationships for the better of the local communities.”
He also pointed out that more areas and more good causes will be set to benefit:
“We want to move the money closer to the ground where it is needed rather than locking it up in Town Hall. By doing this we are unlocking the potential of good causes in local areas, and I hope all Councillors will get behind these plans so we can start getting out there and helping our local communities.”
The plans were proposed at the Council’s Executive Committee on Tuesday 23rd September 2018 and were fully supported by the Conservatives. Labour members voted against the plans as they preferred to keep the money locked up with a small committee at Town Hall rather than devolving the much-needed money into local areas. The plans will be voted on at the next Full Council meeting.