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Agenda item

Community Funding Scheme / S106 Panel

To approve a new Community Funding Grants scheme as a way forward to allocate outstanding funds for future community projects and to approve the amended composition of the S106 Panel.

Subject To Call In::Yes - No action to be taken until the expiry of the call-in period.

Decision:

1.       That the creation of a Community Grants Scheme be APPROVED.

2.       That the development of the scheme be delegated to the Head of Development Services and the Head of Finance and Asset Management, including the formation of criteria and the consultation process to be undertaken to allocate the grants.

3.       That the S106 Panel comprise:

·        The Lead Member for Community.

·        The Lead Member for Built Environment.

·        The Lead Member for Finance and Asset Management.

·        The Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing.

·        Local Member(s) for where the S106 derived as well as from the Ward the funding crosses into (where applicable).

Any Lead Member who cannot attend the meeting can nominate a substitute from the Membership of the Executive Committee.

Minutes:

71.1          The report of the Head of Development Services, circulated at Pages No. 59-62,  outlined a new community funding grants scheme as a way forward to allocate funds of £57,700 for future community projects and proposed refining the composition of the Section 106 Panel. Members were asked to approve the creation of the scheme; delegate development of the scheme to the Heads of Development Services and Finance and Asset Management, including the formation of criteria and the consultation process to be undertaken to allocate the grants; and to approve an amendment to the composition of the Section 106 Panel and the consultation process.

71.2          The Community and Economic Development Manager explained that there were two elements to the report; firstly, a new time-limited community grants scheme for capital projects as a way of allocating the £57,700 which was available as a consequence of the withdrawal of the grant offer to Wormington Village Society, and secondly, to refine the composition of the Section 106 Panel to add a Member and to ask for representations from local affected Members in advance of meetings of the Panel rather than having them attend the Panel.

71.3          During the discussion which ensued, a Member expressed the view that the current Section 106 Panel worked well as it was and she did not see the need for an additional permanent Member. In response, the Community and Economic Development Manager explained that the recommendation to increase the number of Panel Members to five was about there being an odd number which was more usual for the Membership of Committees and Working Groups but also the suggestion that the additional Member should be the Leader of the Council made sense as he was also the Lead Member for Economic Development/Promotion. Another Member indicated that this was a relatively small amount of money for community grants and she questioned what the time limit for spending the funds was. She also understood the role of the Section 106 Panel was to consider disputed Section 106 applications for funding and she questioned how many of those were outstanding. In response, the Community and Economic Development Manager explained the intention that the Section 106 Panel be used for the decisions on the community grant funding as well as for Section 106 applications. The community funding would be promoted through Parishes and community groups and local media for a period of approximately 10 weeks to try and encourage applications – it was anticipated the funding would be allocated in one meeting of the Panel but if not a second meeting would be called. In terms of outstanding Section 106 funds, to his knowledge there were currently none outstanding. At the present time, the Section 106 Panel met three or four times a year and usually had around four or five applications to make a decision on; it was not possible to predict when they would come through as it depended on trigger points etc. The Lead Member for Built Environment indicated that it was her that had raised the increase in numbers of the Panel as there had been some instances where only two or three Members of the Panel could participate in the meetings and she felt an additional Member would mean there would more likely be at least four Members available for the meetings. She had also suggested an addition to the local Members being consulted to those where the funding crossed borders as well as those where the Section 106 funds had been derived; this would ensure everyone applicable had the opportunity to provide their views. When the Panel had been set up it had been thought there would be very few issues where it would be needed but this had proven not to be the case. Going forward, Section 106 Agreements were being specified more accurately to avoid this problem but, in the meantime, the Panel would still be required.

71.4          The Head of Development Services explained that no one wanted to be in a position whereby generic Section 106 monies were going into a pot so there was a need to be more specific in the details. However, one of the issues was smaller developments with no onsite community open space/facilities and those needed to be looked at to try and ensure they were as specific as possible. Section 106 Agreements were complex and often the triggers in them decided when the money came forward so the whole issue did need to be addressed. There was a lot of work ongoing to ensure the money was advertised and going to the communities that needed it.

71.5          A Member noted that the pot of £57,700 for community grants was not very much against the large number of community organisations that were likely to bid for it and he questioned whether it could be used instead for carbon neutral works for the Council’s buildings to help it meet its stated climate change / carbon reduction commitment. In response, the Head of Finance and Asset Management explained that the Council had submitted a bid to a government fund for the replacement of the heating system within the Council Offices but unfortunately that had not been approved. This would result in a lot of money for the Council to find for that particular project but also for the Council’s other assets to achieve carbon neutrality and any additional funding that could be identified for that would certainly be helpful. The money in question was from capital reserves and, if the Council wished to reallocate it to another project such as climate change / carbon reduction, a recommendation would need to be made to Council to change the capital programme as it was currently included for community funding. Other Members felt the funding should be used for community projects rather than for a Council project given that it had come from money which had originally been earmarked for a community project which had unfortunately not come to fruition. However, another Member agreed with the suggestion that putting the money into the Council’s climate change commitment would effectively still be putting the money back into the community. A Member suggested that it could be possible to specify that applications from communities that would have environmental benefits could be prioritised / looked upon more favourably as a way of addressing both points of view and the Community and Economic Development Manager agreed that this could be included as part of the criteria for applications – the report suggested the applications were linked to the Council’s objectives and the green agenda was one of those.

71.6          It was proposed and seconded that the recommendation as set out in the report be agreed. A Member suggested that point three in the report be removed and treated separately – that suggestion was proposed and seconded – and the original proposer and seconder agreed that items one and two would be taken separately from point three. A Member expressed concern about the addition of a permanent Member to the composition of the Section 106 Panel as she felt it would compromise the Panel, making its recommendations political decisions rather than about the communities. She indicated that her comments were in no way personal, she objected to any change in the Panel Membership which would result in a three to two split between two political parties.

71.7          The Head of Development Services explained that the criteria for allocating the money needed to be developed but she felt that, as the initial funding had been allocated for a number of years, she would want it to be reallocated to communities as soon as possible but definitely within the next six to eight months. The idea was that applications would be invited, then the Panel would discuss all the applications and make a recommendation to her for decision. It was anticipated that the projects which came forward for funding should be ‘oven ready’ as that would provide the opportunity for the money to be spent in a timely way. In offering further clarification, the Chief Executive explained that if the Committee only voted on points one and two at the current meeting and did not do anything with point three then the decisions on the community funding scheme and allocation of the funds would have to be undertaken by the Panel as it was currently comprised. However, if the Panel was changed at the current meeting then it would be the new Panel which would be undertaking that work. The Head of Development Services would develop the criteria in consultation with the Panel and aim to allocate the funds over one or two meetings but it was impossible to say how it would be allocated until the criteria was developed. In addition, the Community and Economic Development Manager confirmed that the Council’s Community Funding Officer was already working with a number of community groups that would like to come forward for funding which Members were reminded would be allocated for capital projects only.

71.8          Points one and two of the report were proposed, seconded and voted upon as set out in the report.

71.9          A Member felt that, in order to have the correct balance of people on the Panel, a minimum of four attendees was required and she believed that an additional permanent Member on the Panel would assist that aim. Accordingly, she proposed, and it was seconded, that the composition of the Section 106 Panel be amended to add the Leader of the Council as the fifth Member. Another Member proposed, and it was seconded, that the Panel Membership remain at four but that substitutions should be allowed in the event that a Member was unable to attend a meeting. The proposer of the original motion agreed that she would be happy for the Membership to remain at four with a substitute from the Membership of the Executive Committee, as necessary, to be nominated by the Panel Member. She also accepted that local Members should still be able to attend the Panel meetings as long as that covered local Members from the Ward where the money was derived as well as the Wards that were affected if there was a cross boundary issue. Upon being put to the vote, it was

Action By:HDS HF&AM

Supporting documents: