ABC: TAk£500+ scheme Council funding

ABC: TAk£500+ scheme Council funding

Councillor Peter Lavery.

Adam Morton

Reporter:

Adam Morton

Email:

Adam.Morton@jpress.co.uk

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to make a contribution of £30,000 to this year’s Tak£500+ community planning participatory budgeting grants scheme, it has been confirmed.

At the council’s monthly meeting on Monday, July 25, members were informed the pilot participatory budgeting Tak£500 project was highly successful in reaching out to local communities and engaging them in decision making for their areas.

The general parameters of the grants process for this year was decided in March and June and it is hoped the operational workings of this year’s scheme will start in September 2022.

Building on the success of the Tak£500 campaign, the project aims to provide funding for community groups to facilitate events that empower communities and support a sense of ownership for investment and decision making.

The events availing of funding from the scheme should also promote the Take 5 public health message, strengthen partnership working and promote innovation.

The three localities this scheme will target are Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and there is a preference for in-room, face-to-face events where possible to maximise connections.

It has been agreed that due to increasing costs the funding should be increased from £500 to a maximum of £1,000.

Funding is provided from a range of partners and while £47,000 has already been informally secured from other partners, it is hoped a total funding pool of between £70,000 – £90,000 will be secured to make the project viable.

Difficulties with partners being able to make firm budgetary commitments at this time mean the council has been asked to make a contribution to the participatory budgetary grants funding pot this year on top of the commitment already made to provide the necessary resource and funding to run the process.

A report presented to members ahead of the meeting suggests the £30,000 contribution could be taken from the council’s funding assistance programme (FAP) reserves on a one-off basis to help fund the Tak£500+ initiative.

Alternatively, it also suggests members could opt to use the council’s general reserves to help fund this programme instead.

Proposing the council agrees to spend the £30,000 requested on this programme, Councillor Peter Lavery asked if smaller groups would be given assistance applying for this funding.

“When this scheme was run last time it generated a lot of interest from both the various groups applying for funding and members living within each area voting for projects they wanted to fund,” he said.

“I think all projects ended up being funded one way or another and it was a good way to generate interest in the borough and is a good way for groups to promote their ideas and what they want to do for the community.

“However, I know some groups are smaller than others and those groups may not know how to market themselves on social media. Could any training or guidance be provided for groups who wish to go through the process?

“Could those groups who wish to participate in this process be given training or guidance so they could maximise the potential to market themselves and their projects within this framework?”

Council’s head of community planning, Elaine Gillespie told the chamber this year’s event will be in person and this should help tackle that problem.

“We recognised the difficulties that occured last time for small groups to be able to market themselves and pull together the necessary video to promote their project,” said Ms Gillespie.

“This year the participatory budgeting working group will be working with all applicants to help them at the marketplace event where they will be able to, in person, talk through what their project is about.”

DUP Councillor Darryn Causby seconded Cllr Lavery’s proposal to approve this funding but called for the money to come from the council’s reserves rather than FAP reserves.

“We are talking about money for community groups under this participatory budgeting and potentially taking money out of FAP reserves for it,” said Cllr Causby.

“I don’t understand why we have another community funding scheme second to one that already exists and wouldn’t want to the two to run apart from each other.

“If this is to be an annual thing or an ongoing thing it should be potentially looked at in the round of the overall financial assistance policy for community grants.”

He continued: “I fear we are now starting to muddy the water by opening up other funding streams and opportunities.

“The administrative burden already on staff through FAP is quite cumbersome. Having two separate policies for this does not sit comfortably with us, it seems to be out of kilter with the review that is ongoing.

“For this year, fine, but we would like to see this brought in to the overall FAP umbrella eventually.

“It is a community grant and that is how they community out there sees it and we need to make sure the process is streamlined and straightforward.”

Ms Gillespie said she was in agreement will Cllr Causby and told the chamber she would be happy to work with “colleagues to bring these processes closer together in the future”.

The chamber then voiced its approval for Cllr Lavery’s proposal to provide the requested £30,000 funding for this year’s Tak£500+ community planning participatory budgeting grants scheme.

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