The Cabinet Member for Health and Communities provided an update and sought approval to consult on the proposals for the Council’s review of Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) recurring grants.
The report gave considerable background to the crucial role the VCS in Derbyshire supporting local communities and delivering a wide range of activity to meet local needs. The Council provided approximately £3 million of grant funding to VCS organisations on average each year. Ensuring future allocations to the Service and encouraging the long-term sustainability of the sector, were key priorities.
A Council-wide review of VCS grants was undertaken in 2019, together with an audit of voluntary and community sector grants. The audit highlighted the complexity of grant funding arrangements across the Council but recognised the grants it provided fell into two main categories: One-off grants and Recurring grants.
A number of progress reports had been presented to Cabinet and it had been agreed that Recurring grant payments be extended for a period of six months to 31 March 2022 to ensure organisations were not adversely affected during the review process and to maintain the security and stability of the sector. Work had also taken place to finalise proposals for the review, with the Council engaging with organisations in receipt of a recurring grant payment and other key stakeholders to ensure that they were fully informed of plans and decision-making timetables.
The review had identified grants had been extended without review or a competitive process to award funding. It was recommended that Cabinet agreed to consult on whether the Council should adopt the principle that it would no longer support the award of grant funding to any organisation in the future without a fixed end date (save in exceptional circumstances). The Derbyshire Compact outlined the Council’s obligations to undertake 12 weeks consultation on any proposals which would result in changes to funding arrangements for VCS organisations.
It was considered that adopting the principle referred to above would be an important part of the new approach and would increase the annual amount of funding available to a wider range of organisations. They would be made aware that funding was finite and not to expect additional grant funding following allocation of the original award.
This proposal would not result in the blanket cessation of funding - the Council would commission the activities to which the grant related to where either it was a service that was necessary for the Council to discharge its statutory obligations or met the Council’s strategic aims and priorities, provided value for money and supported a fair and equitable distribution of resources. Commissioning services would provide the organisation in receipt of funding a more stable platform to grow and enhance their offer. Funding would be reviewed regularly and there would be an expectation that organisations would apply and re-apply for future funding.
It was also proposed that current grant awards be redesigned and commissioned thematically and that the Review be progressed in two stages. Stage One: The Pathway Process - grants in scope of the review would be placed onto one of two ‘pathways’ to enable and support organisations in understanding the approach in relation to their grant funding. A series of proposed criteria to be used for assessment was detailed.
To enable existing recurring grant recipients to understand the potential implications of proposals on current funding arrangements, a brief assessment of all grants had been undertaken. These assessments were indicative and subject to change following consultation. The outcomes were outlined in full in Appendix A with 44 recurring grants placed on Pathway One (with 38 being redesigned thematically) and 18 on Pathway Two. A list of the proposed thematic redesigns and the organisations affected were found at Appendix 3.
Proposed Stage Two: Implementation would take place following a 12-week consultation and the final process for the review agreed. Commissioning plans, thematic redesign plans and exit plans would be issued to organisations depending on the outcome of the assessment and would form a vital part of implementation. The process was detailed in the report.
Timescales for the review process and action timescales were listed in the report. It was necessary to extend grant funding further during the consultation period and to allow adequate time following any decision, before significant changes to current funding arrangements would be made however, pending consultation and final decisions, funding may have be withdrawn from organisations before March 2023. It was important that organisations planned for this in their own budget setting processes for the 2022-23 financial year. The report listed the proposed extensions.
The Council was working on delivering its approach to future grant funding which would result in a new one council outcomes-based approach. A report, outlining the new approach, would be brought to Cabinet in January 2022. This funding was hoped to provide support to those organisations affected by the review process.
The report detailed the consultation process, the stakeholders involved and the methods used. The process would close on 20 March 2022.
RESOLVED – that Cabinet (1) approves consultation on a proposal that the Council adopt the principle of no longer supporting the award of grant funding to any organisation in the future without a fixed or scheduled end date (save for in exceptional circumstances); (2) approves consultation on the proposals for a process for reviewing existing recurring grants; (3) the consultations referred to in paragraphs 4.4 and 4.5 of the report to be conducted by way of a single consultation exercise, the consultation period to be a period of 12 weeks commencing on 20 December 2021; (4) receives a further report on the outcome of the consultation and final VCS funding proposals at its meeting in May 2022; and (5) approves proposals to extend grant funding to VCS organisations as set out in the report and to make budgetary provision of £778,111 to support organisations during the review process.