See, the Council does listen to the not for profit sector!Blog by Damian Brady, CEO
Tower Hamlets Council has just launched the Local Community Fund as a replacement for the former Community Commissioning Fund. The more jaded and cynical among us in the 3rd sector may have just shrugged at the announcement emails and mumbled ‘just the same stuff under a new name’. However, for once that is not the case and for once it seems that the Council has listened to you our members (and us your CVS) about what better would look like.
The original Community Commissioning proposals came under sustained friendly and less than friendly fire. As a result of that, representations from members, and intense lobbying from your CVS the Council paused the Community Commissioning Programme and went away to think about that again. Members and Council Officers seem to have reflected long and hard because the newly launched Local Community Fund looks quite different.
First of all, it is clear that elected members got involved here, and the result is that the Local Community Fund clearly focuses on achieving outcomes for local residents and making a positive impact on their lives. There is even a clear read through from the themes chosen for the fund and the Tower Hamlets Plan. This is very joined up!
Second, it is clear that engagement with the not for profit sector in February and March under the former Community Commissioning Programme was not discarded but instead has been used to shape the themes, priorities and outcomes framework for the Local Community Fund. Now there is still a little way to go to reach classic co-production but it is a significant step on the journey and closer reading of the Local Community Fund papers shows that the Council has committed to co design and co-produce the successful projects through the lifetime of the grants. This represents real progress so long as there will be support for organisations to undertake the required co design and co-production journeys envisaged!
Did you notice the word I used in that last paragraph? I used the word ‘Grants’. These are grants in all but name and the clunky use of tender portals and commissioning contracts set out under Community Commissioning has been replaced with something, kinder, less scary or bureaucratic and more accessible. Not only is this still effectively a grant type programme but the value of the total pot has been largely maintained and not cut as it has been nearly everywhere else in London. There is even a complimentary simple low value pure grants programme for projects needing less than £5,000 a year for small scale innovation, local community action, community cohesion, prevention and the development of local partnerships!
And it gets even better, as there is a firm intention to recognise the value of localness and social value in all its forms and to support organisations needing to pay market rents for local space.
To be fair to the Council this is probably as good as it can get for a what is effectively a grants programme in the current climate given the Commissioners’ Directions and the back drop of Tower Hamlets needing to make significant savings running in to the tens of millions as a result of austerity and funding formula changes. The Local Community Fund is therefore a welcome step in the right direction and we will now wait to see if further funding can be directed to less well funded areas like Community Safety and whether the Council will invest in co-production and relinquish control so that our mutual ambitions for co-production can be achieved.
If you want to know more about the Local Community Fund then please click here