What is the current situation?
The County Council provides grant funding to a range of community and not-for-profit organisations through the Leader’s Community Grants, Rural Communities Fund, and Parish and Town Council Investment Fund grant schemes.
Organisations can apply to us throughout the year for grant funding for one-off projects under these schemes, providing the organisation and the project meet the relevant eligibility criteria. Successful applicants would generally be able to demonstrate the sustainability of the project beyond the grant period and should also demonstrate that they have secured funding from other sources where possible.
During 2022/23 a total of £624,129 was awarded through the different schemes to 87 organisations:
|Number of organisations
|Leader’s Community Grants
|Rural Communities Fund (including country shows)
|Parish and Town Council Investment Fund
Brief description of the community grants schemes in scope of this proposal
Leader's Community Grants
Leader's Community Grants provide one-off funding for time-limited projects which:
- provide community benefit and help local communities thrive; and
- help local organisations become financially self-supporting and not reliant on public sector funding.
Grants are available from £1,000 up to £25,000, which would normally cover up to 50% of the sum required to complete the project.
The total annual budget available to this scheme is £400,000.
Rural Communities Fund
The Rural Communities Fund supports Parish Councils, groups and organisations in rural Hampshire and small market towns. The priorities of the scheme are to encourage rural communities to be more self-supporting, less at risk of the impacts of climate change, enjoy better economic growth, and look after their residents better. In addition, the Fund supports country shows, providing grants for anything which enhances people's understanding and appreciation of rural Hampshire, its environment, agriculture, and biodiversity.
This is a 50% match funded scheme which funds up to a maximum of £10,000 per project.
The total annual budget available to this scheme is £81,000.
Parish and Town Council Investment Fund
The Parish and Town Council Investment Fund aims to improve collaboration between local communities and the County Council by providing financial support for innovative initiatives that address local needs and reduce the pressure on our services. The fund is open to Parish and Town Councils (PTCs) as well as formally established local community groups working in partnership with our services.
The fund offers support in three key areas:
- Capital Funding for infrastructure and equipment improvements, up to £30,000 per project.
- Energy Efficiency Grants for carbon reduction and energy efficiency in community buildings, up to £30,000 per project.
- Revenue Funding schemes to enable local communities to be more resilient and local training initiatives, typically ranging from £1,000 to £30,000 per project.
The average awarded each year is £174,000.
What is being proposed?
We are proposing to withdraw three competitive grant schemes which provide one-off funding grants to a range of community groups and organisations, namely:
- Leader’s Community Grants
- Rural Communities Fund (including country shows)
- Parish and Town Council Investment Fund
The total value of the proposed savings is £481,000 per year.
Why is this being proposed?
Until a sustainable long-term national funding solution can be found to address the intense financial pressures facing not only the County Council, but also wider local government, we have no choice but to consider changing or reducing services and reducing financial support to organisations in some areas and propose options for savings.
Withdrawing the three one-off competitive grant schemes would contribute £481,000 towards addressing the County Council’s overall anticipated £132 million budget deficit from April 2025.
Whilst welcomed by communities, the one-off grant schemes in scope of this review are not something we are required to do by central Government. Support to communities would still be available through other channels including the County Councillor Grant Fund and other one-off opportunities.
How would the proposal be implemented?
Each year, there is a short period when the schemes close to applications for administrative purposes. If approved, the schemes would not be re-opened to new applications later in 2024, following the planned administrative closure.
What are the potential impacts?
The services that could be affected by this proposal are not provided directly by the County Council, so any service decisions would be taken by the organisations currently in receipt of the grants.
Reduced funding opportunities may mean organisations would need to seek alternative forms of funding and investment from other sources. This may include greater reliance on funding from national bodies, increasing the generation of income locally through voluntary donations or charging a service contribution. If sufficient alternative funding cannot be identified, this may result in a reduction in community service provision.
Community organisations in areas with high levels of unemployment or people on low incomes may be less likely to have access to alternative sources of local fundraising. They are, however, more likely to be classified as priority areas for support by other funding bodies.
Community organisations would continue to have the opportunity to apply for grant support through other grant schemes available locally and regionally.
What alternatives have been considered?
There are other approaches that we could take that are not proposed at this time. In developing this proposal, we have also considered the following:
Maintain the current level of grant funding
This option is not being proposed because of the scale of the budget pressures faced by the County Council, and the legal requirement to operate within budget. If we maintained current levels of spending, it would put additional pressure on other statutory or critical services to deliver increased savings. Statutory services are those we are legally required to provide. This may impact levels of service in these areas and our ability to operate within our budget.
Reduce the current level of grant funding
This option is not being proposed because managing a reduced grant program would still require significant administrative costs for processing and assessing applications, awarding grants, monitoring recipients, and reporting.