Agenda item


            The Committee was provided with a comprehensive update on the outcome of the review of partnership funding and asked to consider future funding for those organisations within the scope of the review. 


            The Director of Neighbourhood Services reminded the Members that the City and Neighbourhood Services Department worked in partnership with a number of organisations that shared common strategic objectives and that some of this work had developed through the provision of annual financial support to deliver against agreed outcomes.  Many of the partnership funding arrangements were historical and had been rolled on from year to year and were not dealt with as part of a mainstreamed open call or other funding process.


            As such, the Committee, at its meeting held in June 2019, agreed to review the funding arrangements, with a focus on alignment with the Council’s Corporate Plan, the Belfast Agenda and overall value for money. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the completion of the review had been delayed significantly and, in February 2021, Members had agreed to carry forward the funding at the same levels as previously to the organisations within scope of the review.  As follows:




Belfast Hills Partnership


Lagan Valley Regional Park


Outdoor Recreation NI (promotion of mountain bike trails)


Keep NI Beautiful (Live Here Love Here and Eco Schools Project)


Mary Peters Trust


Bryson Energy (previously Play Resource)*





* Note – Play Resource Warehouse was no longer in existence and had merged with Bryson Energy.


            The Members were advised that, as instructed, an extensive review had been undertaken with all of the above partnership funding arrangements and he drew their attention to the summary of the outcomes of the review against the specification and he proceeded to summarise the main recommendations, as follows:



1.     Continue funding


Given the evidence of strategic alignment, added value and value for money, it was suggested that all of the partnership funding arrangements be agreed, in principle, at the same level for 2022/23, subject to the completion of the 2022/23 revenue estimates process.  It was further recommended that any future review of these arrangements would be tied to the Council’s overall review of community provision (which would include funding arrangements).


2.     Set SMART targets and an increased focus on outcomes


Funded partnerships to work with the Council to design up-to-date targets/deliverables and mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation, and reporting purposes.  This would include SMART targets, increased focus on outcomes and a standardisation of the contractual arrangements.  All of this would improve future measurement of impact.


3.     Link deliverables to Belfast Agenda and other funding partners


It was important that future deliverables/ targets aligned to the funding arrangements were

explicit in their link to the Belfast Agenda.  This would ensure that collective successes of the various funded partnerships built on the Community Plan aspirations to the benefit of all Belfast City Council residents. It was also advised, for the higher value contracts, that the Council would liaise with other funders of the partnerships to collectively agree deliverables that aligned to common priorities, thereby generating better results and outcomes from the funding. 



4.     Enhance promotion of partnership efforts


The review found extensive evidence that a lot of benefits were derived from the funded partnerships, and it was therefore important that the Council allocated these resources to better promote their relationship with the various partnerships, to ensure that all residents understood the collective efforts of the Council, co-funders, partnerships, and beneficiaries in achieving the Council’s priorities under the Belfast Agenda and other key policy frameworks. 


5.     Longer-term funding cycle to facilitate planning


The review recognised the annual nature of budgeting within local government, however, referred to improved forward planning and service delivery if a longer-term funding cycle was be provided to these partner funding arrangements.  Whilst it was recognised that this would be desirable, given the wider financial support provided to the community/voluntary sector on an annual basis and the Council’s wider review of community provision (including financial support), it was not recommended that funding be allocated beyond the 2022/23 financial year at present to those partners.


            The Committee agreed:


·        in principle, to fund each of the partners at the same level for the 2022/23 financial year (£200,109 in total), subject to the completion of the 2022/23 revenue estimates process;

·        to the set SMART targets and an increased focus on outcomes in all contracts;

·        to link deliverables to Belfast Agenda and other funding partners in all contracts; and

·        to enhance the promotion of partnership efforts to increase public awareness.


Supporting documents: