The Director of Neighbourhood Services reminded the Committee that each Council area had been allocated an award from the Department for Communities (DfC) to deliver a Community Support Programme (CSP), to support the aims of the DfC Building Inclusive Communities Strategy 2020 – 2025. She advised that Belfast City Council’s CSP delivered a range of support to the community and voluntary sector through an open call for large grant programmes and direct funding for advice provision across the city. The two grant programmes being Community Capacity and Community Buildings Revenue Grants
The Director of Neighbourhood Services further reminded the Committee that, at the October 2021 meeting of Council, it had been agreed that the awards for the two grant programmes for 2021/22 would be rolled over to the 2022/23 financial year. The Members had been advised at this time that officers would proceed to develop a new multi annual bid that would open for applications during Summer 2022.
The Committee considered the contents of the report and recommendations contained therein in relation to the framework for the 2023/26 programme which sought approval of the outlined approach for implementing the large grant funding that was provided through Community Provision for activity from April 2023 – March 2026 and sought permission for a 3-year Letter of Offer to be issued to successful applicants, to extend until March 2026. The Committee noted that this approval recognised that the level of support required from the Council might increase if there was a reduction in the level of funding provided by the DfC.
The Committee noted that the Council had received an annual Letter of Offer from the DfC for the Community Support Plan, and that there was no indication that the level of funding from DfC would remain at the same level for the financial years 2023/24 – 2025/26. As noted in the March report to this Committee, the Council had not yet received the 2022/23 Letter of Offer.
The Director explained that the level of grant award from the DfC via the Community Support Programme (CSP) was traditionally £1,437,333.83. This consisted of two elements:
· Restricted Advice Grant of £607,928.42; and
· Community Support General £829,408.44.
The Council supplemented the £829,408 Community Support General DfC allocation to provide an overall budget of £1,929,829 which was broken down as follows:
· Capacity Building Grants - £835,824; and
· Revenue for Community Buildings - £1,056,296.
The Director drew the Members’ attention to a number of key issues contained within the report and the following specific points were noted and agreed by the Committee:
· officers to submit an update report in the Autumn to advise of the outcome of the grant assessments, this would include an option for area-based allocations. The Committee noted that allocations were normally based on a citywide quality basis;
· noted that the current upper limit for revenue awards was £20,000 per annum and agreed, given the current economic climate, to build in capacity for this to be increased;
· noted that the current upper limit for revenue awards was £50,000 and agreed, given the current economic climate, to build in capacity for this also to be increased;
· noted that if the upper limits did require to be uplifted that some groups might not receive funding as the overall budgets remained the same (as outlined above);
· agreed to include staffing costs associated with the running of the buildings, such as caretaking and cleaning, as eligible costs for the Community Buildings Revenue grant programme; and
· agreed to amend the aim of the Community Capacity Grant Aid to read as follows:
‘to support community development organisations that support, advocate and take action in relation to the interests of their members and communities, where communities will be defined as geographic communities and/or communities of interest’.
Following discussion, the Committee:
· agreed the approach outlined above for implementation of the large grant funding provided through Community Provision for activity from April 2023 – March 2026 and that an update report would be submitted in the Autumn which would provide detail in regard to the outcome of the awards;
· agreed the issue of the 3-year Letters of Offer to successful applicants to extend until March 2026; and
· noted that the level of support required from Council might increase if there was to be a reduction in the level of funding provided by the Department for Communities.