The £10 million poisoned chalice – and the rush to drink anyway….

alms to the poor Once upon a time the overlords of the people decided to reward hard working communities with a small pot of funding, a friendly fairy godmother saw this and happily agreed to double this money and help communities to spend it wisely. Despite the overloads only setting aside the minimum amount of funding, this still amounted to a small fortune as far as the people were concerned. They wondered at what amazing work they could do to make people’s lives better, to improve learning and to reduce poverty. For to them £10 million was a truly wondrous bounty. Then reality kicked in and everyone realised it was European funding. They came to realise that it was not going to be that easy for the people to get their hands on the cash….. By now many of you will have heard that the latest round European funding has been announced, and you may even have found the calls for proposals on the government website. You may well have heard that the Big Lottery is matching funds. You may well have attended meetings to find out more, and you may well be thinking about how you can use some of the money. I believe that we need to stop and think about some of the issues before we all enter the bun fight / beauty parade. (My thanks to Big Society Funding who are our regions recipients of lottery funding to promote the ESF funding to the sector for some of this information). What are my issues?

  1. This is not a done deal yet. According to the government website “We expect the ESF and ERDF Programmes to be agreed by June this year.” That said it will more than likely be signed off by the new government unless something very strange happens at the election.
  2. This funding is for the Greater Cambridge, Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGPLEP) area. This covers a very wide area. Whilst projects will not have to cover the whole LEP area they will have to work across a significant part of it, possibly with a greater focus on Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Rutland as they are not in other LEP areas.
  3. The Big Lottery is indicating they want to see minimum grant sizes from £1/2 million (although this may well have been doubled according to the last meeting I attended). This means that most voluntary organisations will not be able to lead a bid or bid on their own.
  4. There is an expectation that voluntary groups will form partnerships to bid for the money with lead partners who have the financial muscle to take on significant funding. Given the need to cover large areas, and the complexity of managing this type of partnership I can not see partnerships with more than five or six members being feasible.
  5. Lead partners will be expected to be able to show they have the financial history to manage this type of funding. This may well preclude newly formed consortia bidding without the need for a lead partner.
  6. This is still EU funding so the reporting and risk issues will not disappear. According to Big Society Funding Big Lottery will take on some of the risk and will ensure that this money is a grant. There will still need to be usual record keeping and monitoring as the lottery will have to report back.
  7. There is only £9,928,620 available across the whole region for 6 years. When you think about this it is not a lot. If you remove 15% for management costs which will go to lead partners this leaves £8,439,327. If this is split evenly across all LEP districts (which it won’t be) this would be £703,277 a district. If this runs over the five remaining years of the ESIF programme it means £140,655 per district per year. Suddenly the funding does not look as exciting. Larger organisations would be better off putting in a Reaching Communities application that would be more focused and easier to manage and report on etc.

So if the work you do fits the proposed criteria of Barriers to Work, Financial Inclusion and Social Isolation and Poverty; and you are up for partnership working; and you feel you can manage European funding (even with the help of the Big Lottery and a lead partner) then you need to find out more. I suggest that you look at the following websites.

I suggest that you read the GCGP LEP strategic economic plan as it sets down the priorities for work in this area. (or maybe the summary) I suggest that you complete this pro forma to register your interest that Big Society Funding are collecting and sharing. I suggest that you attend one of these events

CCVS will keep attending meetings and are there to help with any questions you might have, or to try and link you up with partners. We would dearly have loved to see the lottery involvement translate this funding into a small grants programme but that was never on the cards. We would have loved to see the funding going to groups that were working at the grassroots making a real impact, and while some of you will benefit from this funding it is not for everyone. Remember we are there to help you identify suitable funding opportunities so do drop us a line.

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