Agenda item

Support to the Voluntary and Community Sector 2020/21

This report will be pre-scrutinised at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee due to take place on Thursday 9th January 2020.  Any recommendations arising from this meeting will be reported for Members’ consideration in an additional papers pack for this meeting.


This report is being published in an Additional Papers pack for the meeting.



The Head of Community Services presented a report on the subject of support to the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) in 2020/21.  During the presentation of the report the following matters were highlighted:


·                The report outlined six options for the provision of support to VCS organisations over the following three years.

·                The options all focused on the Council’s Concessionary Rents Scheme and VCS grants programme and the different ways in which these could operate.

·                The Council also had a contract with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to provide financial advice to residents and this had been considered as part of the review.

·                Consultation had been undertaken with VCS organisations.  The organisations had reported that they would prefer to receive core funding from the Council, rather than funding for specific projects, as this was the area where VCS organisations tended to struggle to secure funding.

·                The VCS organisations had also highlighted the social value of their work to the local community during the consultation process.


During consideration of this item an additional Option Seven was proposed by Councillor Hartnett for future support to be provided to VCS organisations.  This proposal was seconded by Councillor Greg Chance.


The proposed seventh option was as follows:


“1. End the current Councillor community grants scheme and revert back to the Grants Panel of elected Members for the distribution of grants which is now £145,000 and to be distributed as previously to set criteria as set by the Council and its priority.


2. Support to continue to pay the £75,000 financial advice and problem solving contract”.


In proposing Option Seven Councillor Hartnett commented that he was opposed to all of the options detailed in the report.  He suggested that those options sent a message to VCS organisations that the Council would not support the VCS and did not value VCS organisations.  In addition, Councillor Hartnett expressed concerns about the potential impact of requiring VCS organisations to pay a commercial rent and he suggested that this could impact on the long-term viability of some VCS groups as a consequence.  Councillor Hartnett commented that many VCS organisations provided services that should be delivered either by Redditch Borough Council or Worcestershire County Council. Furthermore, he questioned what organisations would fill the gap that might emerge in local service delivery if those VCS organisations were no longer able to operate as a consequence of the withdrawal of a concessionary rent.  Councillor Hartnett suggested that this could have a negative impact on the community and could result in increased demand for services from the NHS, Redditch Borough Council and Worcestershire County Council.  To address this situation Councillor Hartnett suggested that a Member-led Grants Panel should be reintroduced to consider grants applications from VCS groups and the Council should continue to allocated £75,000 to a contract with a VCS organisation to provide financial advice to local residents.


Also in support of his proposal Councillor Hartnett commented that VCS organisations undertook valuable work in the local community.  He suggested that for every £1 spent on the sector the community received £10 in value.  Councillor Hartnett expressed concerns that VCS organisations did not appear to think that the Council understood the value of their work.  However, the Council did value their work and Councillor Hartnett suggested that this should be reflected in the support that the Council provided to the sector.  Councillor Hartnett concluded by acknowledging that the Council was in financial difficulties but he suggested that this should not result in a reduction in support for VCS groups.


In seconding Option Seven Councillor Greg Chance noted that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had recommended in November 2019 that the review of the concessionary rents scheme should end and that alternative Council savings should be identified.  This recommendation had not been approved at the previous meeting of the Executive Committee.  Councillor Chance also commented that when support for VCS organisations had previously been reviewed this had occurred only with the support of the sector.  Councillor Chance suggested that Option Seven would ensure that funding for local VCS groups was sustainable and the groups would remain viable.


Members discussed the proposed Option Seven and in doing so noted that a similar proposal had been made at the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 9th January 2020 when Members had pre-scrutinised the report.  However, this proposal had been defeated at that meeting. In addition, Members commented that previous reviews had been undertaken of the Council’s grant scheme and the Concessionary Rents Scheme had been introduced some years ago. 


During consideration of this item a named vote was requested on Option Seven in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 17.5.


Members voting FOR Option Seven below:


Councillors Greg Chance and Bill Hartnett. (2)


Members voting AGAINST Option Seven below:


Councillors Brandon Clayton, Matthew Dormer, Julian Grubb, Mike Rouse, David Thain and Craig Warhurst. (6)


The proposal was therefore lost.


Also during the debate on this item Members considered a recommendation that had been made by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the subject of this report at a meeting held on Thursday 9th January 2020.  The Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Joe Baker, presented the recommendation and in doing so explained that the Committee had heard from a number of local residents who had spoken on the subject of support for VCS organisations in the Borough.  The residents had made a number of points, including the suggestion that a market appraisal should be undertaken of the sector.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had aimed to highlight the views of local residents and VCS organisations with the Executive Committee and had taken into account those views when agreeing their recommendation.  This recommendation proposed that the Executive Committee should reconsider the inclusion of ‘meanwhile type’ leases in any proposed options.


Members discussed the recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.  It was noted that this had originally been suggested as an action that could assist the sector by representatives of local VCS groups.  However, concerns were expressed that it would not be appropriate from a governance perspective to offer meanwhile leases to VCS organisations.  Instead, a range of options might be available and these would need to be reviewed in context on a case by case basis.  For these reasons the recommendation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was noted. 


The Committee subsequently discussed the following matters relating to the support the Council provided to VCS organisations and the options detailed in the report:


·                The Council’s existing support to VCS organisations, which had been reviewed at a time when Council finances were challenging and following the external auditor’s issuing of the Section 24 Notice for the authority.

·                The potential for Option Five to be adopted by the Council.

·                The focus of Option Five, which would provide VCS organisations with an opportunity to prepare for changes to both the support received from the Council in concessionary rents and grants over a phased period.

·                The reduction in concessionary rents that would be available to effected VCS organisations over a three year period should Option Five be approved.

·                The proposal to continue to provide £175,000 in grant funding to VCS organisations over the three year period under Option Five.

·                The potential for a Redditch Community Foundation to be established in the future to support local VCS organisations which could operate in a similar manner to other community foundations in the country.

·                The nine organisations that were in receipt of a concessionary rent from the Council.  Members acknowledged that there were more VCS organisations in the Borough that did not receive a concessionary rent than did.

·                The need for Members to make difficult decisions in order to balance the Council’s budget.

·                The potential impact that decisions about the Council’s budget could have on local VCS organisations.

·                The reductions that had been made over recent years to the funding available to VCS organisations through the grants programme and in the contract to provide financial advice.

·                The work of the Member-led Grants Panel in previous years and the potential to replace this with an Officer-led Grants Panel.

·                The suggestion that had been received from VCS organisations that there should be an Officer-led Grants Panel which would notify VCS organisations of the reasons why they had been unsuccessful in securing Council funding so that lessons could be learned for the future.

·                The need for the Officer-led Grants Panel to comply with strict criteria when assessing grant applications.

·                The financial support provided to VCS organisations by Councils in other parts of the country.  It was suggested that it was unusual for a Council to provide concessionary rents to VCS groups.

·                The demographics in Redditch and the increasing use of food banks by local residents.  Members noted that VCS organisations had an important role to play in providing services to the most vulnerable people in society.

·                The potential for the Council to assist VCS organisations by helping them to identify alternative sources of funding that was not provided by the local authority.


At the end of a lengthy discussion a named vote was requested in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 17.5 about the proposals detailed in the report, including the proposal to adopt Option Five moving forward.


Members voting FOR the proposals below:


Councillors Brandon Clayton, Matthew Dormer, Julian Grubb, Mike Rouse, David Thain and Craig Warhurst. (6)


Members voting AGAINST the proposals below:


Councillors Greg Chance and Bill Hartnett. (2)


The proposals were therefore carried.




1)        Option Five in the report be approved, whereby the Council ends the Concessionary Rents Scheme but provides a stepped down transition over a 3 year period paid for out of a reduced VCS grants pot of £175k of which £50k will be allocated to a Financial Advice and Problem Solving grant;



2)        that an officer panel to be established to deal with applications for any grant awarding activity to include allocation of Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) funding, the Financial Advice and Problem Solving grant and general VCS Grant funding; and


3)        that delegated authority be given to the Head of Community and Housing Services following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Leisure, to agree a new VCS Grants Policy in accordance with the preferred option.

Supporting documents: