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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 13/11/2006
Review of Community Partnerships Fund Scheme



APPENDIX G.1
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE - 13TH NOVEMBER 2006
ENVIRONMENT AND LEISURE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
14TH NOVEMBER 2006
CORPORATE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE - 20TH NOVEMBER 2006

Title:
REVIEW OF COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FUND SCHEME
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

The Community Partnerships Fund Scheme is a grant scheme for voluntary organisations, local charities and community groups in the borough. The scheme operates two funding streams; the Small Grants Scheme, where applications can be made at any time for grants of 15,000 and under, and the Main Grants Scheme for grants of over 15,000 for which there is an annual bidding round.

The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its last meeting agreed that an in-depth review should be carried out into the Waverley Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria. The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee also agreed that a Sub-Committee be established to undertake the detailed work and that as each Overview and Scrutiny Committee is involved in considering applications under the scheme the Sub-Committee should comprise representatives from each.

The following report sets out the findings of the Community Partnerships Fund Sub-Committee for consideration by all the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees. The views of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees will then be reported to the Executive alongside the normal consideration of the process, criteria and timetable for the 2007/2008 funding round.

Environmental implications

Many of the projects considered for funding result in improvements in the local environment. Previous applications have included applications for improved buildings and some for outdoor equipment providing new and improved facilities for the community.

Social / community implications:

There are significant social and community benefits associated with the Community Partnerships Fund and under the current criteria projects are assessed according to the degree to which the project demonstrated community involvement, community benefit and community need.

E-Government implications:

There are no direct e-Government implications arising from this report.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct resource and legal implications associated with this report other than the officer time involved in the review. The total Community Partnerships Fund allocation for 2006/07 is 300,000 of which 260,000 was available for the main bidding round and 40,000 is available for the small grants for which applications are considered throughout the year. There is currently 300,000 identified in the draft 2007-08 Capital Programme but funding beyond this is currently uncertain.

Background

1. During consideration of the 2006/07 funding process for the Community Partnerships Fund, members of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee raised concerns on the approved grant criteria currently used to assess individual applications for funding. Members also drew attention to the role of Area Partnership Groups, which consist of representatives from Town and Parish Councils and voluntary organisations, and the weight given to their assessment from a local perspective of applications received.

Scope of the review

2. In the September meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees, members agreed that the review of the Waverley Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria should examine and focus on addressing the following key questions:

I. Is the existing Waverley Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria understood by applicants, Waverley members and partner organisations? II. How do officers arrive at their recommendations for grant? III. Are members satisfied with the existing process and if not what are the issues they would like addressed? IV. What are our partner organisations views on the existing criteria and do they have suggestions for how it could be improved?

V. How do our criteria compare with other authorities?

VI. Can the existing criteria be improved?

3. The review does not consider the criteria itself or the award of the funds. These matters are the subject of a separate report each year. The report for the 2007/2008 funding round is the next item on this agenda.

Work undertaken by the Sub-Committee

4. The review of the Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria had to be completed in a short time scale and before the launch of the 2007/08 scheme in November/December 2006. For this reason a Community Partnerships Fund Sub-Committee was appointed to undertake the task and to report back findings to each of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees. The Sub-Committee comprised the following members: Mr Betlem, Mr Byham, Mr Duckett, Mr Mackie and Mrs Mitchell. Mr Mackie was appointed Chairman of the Sub-Committee at its first meeting on Friday 20th October 2006 and the Sub-Committee met on two further occasions with the final meeting being held on Friday 3rd November 2006.

4. At the Sub-Committee’s first meeting they considered the existing Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria (see Application Guidance information attached at Annexe 1) through interviews with the officers responsible for administering the scheme. The Sub-Committee also agreed a questionnaire that was sent to all members.

5. At the Sub-Committee’s next meeting on 31st October 2006 interviews were held with representatives of two of the four Area Partnership Groups who undertake an independent assessment of applications for grant. The Sub-Committee also considered data from local authorities operating comparable schemes and a summary of this evidence is attached at Annexe 2 the supporting detailed background papers collected from other local authorities are available in the Members’ Room.

6. At the final meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 3rd November 2006, the results of the Member questionnaire (see Annexe 3) were considered. In total 11 replies to the questionnaire were received. The Sub-Committee then considered the information it had gathered from the earlier meetings along with the survey results and agreed their conclusions and main findings.

Summary of overall findings for consideration by Overview and Scrutiny Committees

7. The main conclusions and findings of the Sub-Committee are set out below:

Grants Criteria

a) Overall Waverley’s Community Partnerships Fund grants criteria and process is well considered and thorough. b) The Grants Officer contacts applicants where appropriate and will raise any issues or omissions on their application forms which may need to be addressed in order to give organisations the opportunity to clarify or alter their application. c) The Grants Officer and Assistant Director of Finance produce an initial assessment of applications and these are then discussed with the relevant service department link officers and recommendations produced. d) Officers no longer use a formal structured scoring system to assess grant applications as this was found to lack flexibility and was too restrictive because of the diverse nature of applications received and on occasion was found to work against what were clearly beneficial applications. (Representatives of the Area Partnership Groups when interviewed supported this approach.) Instead officers make a judgement according to how applications meet the key criteria which are clearly set out in the Application Guidance. e) It is proposed that greater emphasis be given to encouraging applicants to contact our Grants Officer for advice and information prior to submitting application this should be highlighted in any covering letter sent to potential applicants and on the Guidance note and on the Application Form itself. f) The Sub-Committee considered the Area Partnership Groups provide a useful and independent assessment of applications however it should not be assumed that their views should necessarily correspond with officer recommendations - Area Partnership Group’s consideration is on a much more narrowly focused criteria i.e. the benefit to the local community (see Area Partnerships section below). g) The Sub-Committee propose that Ward members should be informed of local applications received prior to consideration by Overview and Scrutiny Committees. h) The role of the Area Partnership Groups needs to be highlighted to all Overview and Scrutiny Committees. i) The ‘How to Apply’ section of the Guidance notes needs to state the specific website address for electronic downloadable forms. j) The Guidance notes should be amended to include some specific examples relating to building works i.e. when an application would meet our criteria e.g. new facilities and when it would not e.g. maintenance and repair works. k) The ‘Assessment of Applications’ section of the Guidance notes needs to be expanded to make reference to the role of Area Partnership Groups and the Council’s decision processes. l) The Sub-Committee found that Waverley’s Community Partnerships Fund scheme is unique among the 11 local authorities considered in operating independent Area Partnership Groups to assist the Council in considering grant applications and that this initiative is to be commended. m) Area Partnership Groups should receive written feedback on the decisions on all applications that they have considered. n) Area Partnership Groups do understand their role but would appreciate clearer and simpler guidance on assessment. o) Area Partnership Groups should be asked to apply a ranking to the applications they consider. p) As part of the guidance to be provided to Area Partnership Groups (see m)) clarify that the scoring sheets that may have been used previously are not necessary. q) Area Partnership Groups should base their recommendations on the benefit of a project to their local community and do not necessarily base their recommendations on Waverley’s criteria.

r) Area Partnership Groups would like early notice of timetable in order to set up meetings. s) Comparative information from other authorities indicated similarities between schemes – most look for applications that contribute to Councils Community Strategies / Corporate objectives, for benefits to residents of the borough/district etc as does Waverley’s scheme. t) None of the authorities considered have the equivalent of the independent assessment undertaken by Waverley’s four Area Partnership Groups. u) Several authorities operate with a small Grants Panel and one or two have a voluntary sector representative involved in the process – the Sub-Committee were not in favour of a Grants Panel being established. v) Waverley’s Community Partnerships Fund at 300,000 is one of the largest grant fund pools for community/voluntary capital grants among the 11 authorities contacted. w) Not all of the authorities contacted require forms of matched funding (Waverley’s maximum contribution towards projects is normally 25%, exceptionally 50%) some authorities will fund up to 50% of project costs. x) Some authorities provide grants to individuals – Waverley currently do not and the Sub-Committee do not recommend a change to our criteria in this regard.

Recommendation

The Committee is recommended to consider the report from the Community Partnerships Fund Sub-Committee and to recommend to the Executive that the findings and conclusions, as set out in this report, be adopted for the 2007/08 Community Partnerships Fund scheme.

Background Papers (MD)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Roger Standing Telephone: 01483 523221

E-mail: rstanding@waverley.gov.uk



Comms/o&s2/2006-07/056