This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack, once the report has been published for consideration of the Executive Committee.
· The report outlined options for the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Grants Scheme for the next three years after the current scheme expired in March 2023.
· Officers were proposing that the concessionary rents element of the scheme be removed and that there should be a budget of £100,000 from which VCS groups could apply for funding, together with a £50,000 grant for Financial Advice and Problem Solving.
· Section 6.12 of the report set out the four options for the future operation of the scheme.
· The feedback received from a consultation exercise undertaken with VCS groups indicated that the second option would be appreciated by most by the sector.
· This would mean the removal of the concessionary rents scheme, which was expected to deliver savings of £25k per annum.
· £10k was the maximum grant amount that an individual voluntary or community group would be able to obtain under the proposed options.
Some Members queried whether the average annual profit of approximately £10k generated by the community lottery scheme established by the Council, as referenced in section 6.7 of the report, took account of the set-up and operational costs. Officers explained that the figure quoted did include those costs, but Officers undertook to report back regarding whether this figure also included the officer time costs of the grants officer who managed the local lottery scheme.
Some Members expressed concern that options 1 and 2 as currently presented recommended the removal of the Council’s concessionary rents offer for community and voluntary sector groups. It was argued that this would have a detrimental impact on smaller, locally based community and voluntary groups in Redditch, which were small entities and would be forced to cease operating without the provision of this support. Such entities, it was argued, would not be able to afford the full market rate for renting buildings.
Other Members pointed out, in contrast, that the concessionary rents element was only available to voluntary organisations operating from Redditch Borough Council owned properties. As such options 1 and 2 for the VCS Grants Scheme, as recommended in the report, would create a more merit-based system of allocating grants as no element of the overall scheme would be discriminatory based on whether an organisation was based in a Council-owned property or not.
Officers reminded the Committee that a decision with respect to ending the VCS Concessionary Rents scheme had been taken by the Executive on 29th October 2019, and a transition period had been implemented from April 2020 until 31st March 2022, when the rent concessions were gradually reduced. As such no concessionary rents scheme was currently offered by the Council.
The Leader of the Council commented that a consultation exercise with VCS groups had been undertaken with regards to the future of the voluntary bodies grants scheme and most respondents expressed preference for option 2 to be adopted by the Council. He commented that by adopting option 2 the Council would therefore be listening to what the voluntary and community sector itself wanted.
Following the debate, an amendment to the recommendation as stated in the report was proposed by Councillor Baker, as follows:
that the Executive be recommended by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that option 1 as stated in section 6.12 of the report be approved, subject to a correction that the element in respect of the concessionary rents be retained. The amended Option 1 recommendation would thus read:
“Option 1 – Continue with current scheme (retaining the element in respect of the concessionary grants) for a 3 year period. With a total grant pot of £150k, which would include £50k being available for a Financial Advice and Problem Solving Grant.”
On being put to the vote this recommendation was lost.
Councillor Baker-Price proposed that option 2 be recommended as stated in section 6.12 of the report. The option thus recommended would read:
‘Option 2 – As detailed in option above, but also to update the current policy and break down into 2 types of application – smaller £500 to £2k and larger over £2k up to £10k’
On being put to the vote this recommendation was carried.
the Executive approve the funding for the VCS Grants Scheme for a further three year period with option 2 as set out in section 6.12 of the report.