The council states it has already contacted “over 200” charities and voluntary groups in the borough over its new funding scheme. It just doesn’t manage to detail how any community groups can access the money, as KEN LEE reports
Croydon Council has announced a plan for closer working with the voluntary and community sector.
What took them so long, you may well ask.
According to quotes attributed to Hamida Ali, which the councillor will probably wish she had read more closely before signing off on the council press office’s release, Croydon’s Community Fund “comes despite progressive Government cuts”.
She, or the press office hack who drafted the release, probably means “successive”; the Tory cuts are anything but “progressive”.
Councillor Ali is the Labour cabinet member for unsafe Croydon and broken communities, and she has been wheeled out to announce the “around £3million” annual pot, with funding made up of subsidies and other benefits such as access to lower-cost office space and wider support and advice. So, much less than £3million in hard cash then…
There was much about the council announcement to raise suspicions that this was an effort based on smoke and mirrors, rather than any real resources from a local authority which regaularly states how little money it has available.
“We are increasing our investment in our voluntary and community sector, and I encourage organisations to come forward to take part in the commissioning process for the council’s Community Fund,” Ali is supposed to have said.
But the council’s press release then failed to suggest ways in which charities and community groups can indeed “come forward”. Nor did it offer any firm outline of what groups would qualify to benefit under the fund. Or, indeed, which groups do not qualify.
Some local-based charities, such as Lives Not Knives, have been critical of the council’s approach to voluntary groups, accusing it of ignoring them and bypassing them in a recent government fund allocation process for schemes to counter knife crime.
According to Croydon Council’s Community Fund announcement yesterday, “The new voluntary and community sector strategy sets out the outcomes the council wants to achieve through working in partnership with grassroots organisations – including people living longer, healthier and more independent lives, improving their career prospects, making them feel safer in their local area, and valuing the borough’s arts, sports and culture.
“As part of its new commissioning process and following engagement with over [sic] 200 voluntary and community organisations, the council has reviewed how it goes about providing funding to the sector. The council will create a simpler application process for each size and type of funding bid.”
The council claimed that, “These groups are all not-for-profit organisations with a social conscience that work to improve their local communities through support, prevention and intervention, and include faith groups, co-operatives, registered charities, school groups and sports clubs.”
In a quick straw poll conducted in the last 24 hours, Inside Croydon contacted six prominent charities, voluntary groups and sports clubs operating within the borough. They include some of the biggest, longest established and well-regarded groups, some working with the elderly, with youth groups and with knife crime prevention.
Not one of those in our random and unscientific sample had been contacted by the council among the more than 200 with which the council claims it has been “engaging”.
The council says that it has “invited voluntary and community organisations to a series of engagement events that will shape the new approach before the commissioning process starts”.
The council press release failed to specify where or when these events are to be held.
And they say that they “will also hold support sessions so local groups are informed about the new commissioning process and can ask questions before applying by October for funding between 2020 and 2023”.
Ali – the councillor who was put in charge of Croydon’s Fairness Commission (what do you mean, you’ve never heard of it?) – is supposed to have said, “This plan is about how we can work even more closely with them as an equal partner to support our residents, especially those who need it most.”
Yet, again, the council announcement failed to provide any information about where or when their “support sessions” might be taking place.
With the announcement made in the slow news week ahead of the long Easter weekend, and therefore perhaps soon to be forgotten, it’s almost as if the council don’t want any organisations to find out about the events or to put in bids for what is likely to be very little available funding.
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