By Linus Rees
Community groups in Camden and Westminster found out last week how the government’s cuts to local authority funding could affect them. Delegates at conferences were told that fewer community centres will receive funding, and many voluntary organisations will receive no funding at all. Camden will continue to offer annual revenue grants while Westminster have scrapped grants and introduced commissioning.
An insight into Camden’s current thinking on funding the voluntary and community sector (VCS) from 1 January 2012 was revealed by council officers on Tuesday 25 January at a briefing to representatives from Camden’s community groups. Delegates were told during a question and answer session that because of the cuts imposed by central government it is highly likely that Camden will fund fewer community centres than they currently do and that some voluntary organisations that are currently funded may not be funded in 2012.
However, some delegates felt that the proposals being put forward were not as bad as had previously been thought. One delegate said that the proposals still had a degree of flexibility which would allow organisations with less resources to be able to seek funding. Annual revenue grants will continue but applications would be capped at £50,000 per year.
Camden’s proposals are still at a draft stage and still need to go before the Culture and Environment scrutiny committee before being approved by the Cabinet on 23 February. The new funding arrangements will apply from 1 January 2012 when Camden’s current grants expire.
Meanwhile, City of Westminster informed community organisations that from 1 July there will be no more annual revenue grants. Instead, Westminster will commission services from the voluntary sector. But small grants of up to £5,000 from a total pot of £100,000 per year will still be made available. Westminster City Council took the decision after carrying out a review at the end of last year.
It was also revealed on Thursday 27 January at a conference organised by Voluntary Action Westminster that the private sector can compete for funding alongside voluntary organisations. Voluntary organisations are being encouraged to sign up at CompeteFor, a “service that enables businesses to compete for contract opportunities linked to the London 2012 Games and other major public and private sector buying organisations”.
Voluntary Action Westminster welcomed the retention of the popular small grants scheme, but expressed great concern about the scrapping of annual revenue grants and the introduction of commissioning.
As Fitzrovia straddles the border with Camden and Westminster organisations serving the neighbourhood have often been funded by both local authorities. The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (the charity which supports Fitzrovia News) currently receives funding from Camden Council, City of Westminster, the Big Lottery, and from some trading and public donations. Trustees of the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association will be discussing the implications of the announcements from Camden and Westminster and will be conducting their own financial review and deciding how best to meet the funding challenge.
Voluntary organisations will know the outcome of future funding from City of Westminster in May or June when decisions are taken on funding applications submitted to the council. The result of applications for funding from Camden Council will be decided in September.
Linus Rees is chair of trustees of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association
Camden Council: Voluntary and community sector review 2010
City of Westminster: Voluntary Sector Funding in Westminster – New Arrangements Announced