Lewisham cab member on voluntary sector grants consultation

Voluntary and community organisations in Lewisham could get fundraising posts funded by the council to help them become more self-sufficient.  

The council is making a £800,000 cut to its main grants programme, which supports more than 40 voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations in the borough.  

The cuts forms part of the £40 million in cuts the council needs to make in the next three years.  

The figure will slash the programme by a third. As a result it is consulting on some proposed changes to how it supports the VCS. 

The sector played a huge part in the response to the pandemic, helping millions of people across the UK.  

The local democracy service asked the cabinet member how the planned cut feels in that context.  

Cllr Jonathan Slater said: “We went through a budget-making process where all departments were asked to make reductions.  

“The problem is we’ve had ten years of austerity and the Government let us down over the Covid response – the Government owes us £20 million. That leaves a big hole in your finances.  

“What you don’t want to get into is a situation where you can’t balance the books and then you have to go to Government for money, which Bexley and Croydon have had to do.  

“What we did factor in is other funding available.” 

He said the NHS provides just over half a million towards the social prescribing part of what the council funds through main grants, meaning the sector in Lewisham will be getting £2.3 million per year from next year.  

Cllr Slater added: “We’re also rolling out the neighbourhood community infrastructure levy, both borough-wide and ward-based.  

“We’ve already released the borough-wide pot, which is over £900,000, and we’re going to releasing the ward-based funding from £1.6 million. That will be allocated to each of the 18 wards based on where development is taking place and on socio-economic need. 

“No-one wants to do cuts, but at the same time we’ve still got our main grants, the additional NHS support, and we’ve got the NCIL.” 

He urged organisations to apply for NCIL funding as it becomes available.  

The council’s consultation will run until next month.

It is proposing to introduce new ‘partnership grants’ of £10,000, which would go to organisations “who can demonstrate commitment to working in partnership with the council over the coming years”. 

Cllr Slater said: “We want to support the sector through funding community fundraising posts to allow organisations to go out and support themselves, finding funding from other streams.” 

The council is also proposing new priorities in the wake of the pandemic – money should be granted for things that support an ‘economically sound future’, a ‘healthy and well future’, and a ‘future we all have a part in’.  

Cllr Slater said there were some concerns raised at a consultation meeting that older people activities wouldn’t fit the new priorities for grants.  

But he said those activities will be funded under a ‘healthy and well future’.

He said at the consultation meetings there was “generally acknowledgment of what the council has had to face with ten years of austerity and Covid”.  

Cllr Slater added: “There was also a recognition that we’re trying to do what’s best for residents and for communities.  

“The £800,000 is a cut when all is said and done but there was some relief that we’ve managed to get additional support from our NHS partners.” 

The cabinet member praised the community response during the pandemic.  

He said: “What was heartening was how the community really stepped up, not just the organisations we fund but groups and individuals who hadn’t done it before, who felt that this was a crisis and that we needed to support those who needed to shield.” 

The main grants consultation ends on July 22. To take part go here

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