Council’s new bidding process for voluntary grants is ‘fairer approach’

Cabinet councillors on Lewes District Council, on Thursday, February 4, approved a new approach for allocating grants to voluntary organisations which will enable a wider range of groups to apply for funding. 

This follows a review, including a consultation over the autumn, of the existing Community Grants Policy that awards grants annually to local organisations in three-year cycles.

A new competitive bidding process will be introduced this year and grants will be awarded using this method for the first time next year, when the current funding cycle ends. 

Councillor Johnny Denis ( pictured), Cabinet member for Communities and Customers, said: “This new commissioning system will allow us to support local voluntary organisations in a more transparent way and extends the number of groups we can help. 

“We believe this is a fairer approach, giving us added flexibility so we can focus on areas of need and reflect council priorities. With a three-year funding commitment, this provides organisations with time to achieve meaningful success and gives them some financial security.” 

Meanwhile, Cabinet agreed nearly £260,000 in grants for voluntary organisations for 2021/22 – the final year using the existing policy. Beneficiaries are Lewes District Citizens Advice (£175,340), 3VA (£28,000), Action in Rural Sussex (£3,500), Somptiri (£10,000), Lewes District Churches Homelink (£11,800) and Brighton Housing Trust’s Universal Credit project (£30,000). 

Councillor Denis added: “We highly value the significant contributions that the voluntary sector makes in delivering services to our residents and these grants are a cost-effective way of the council meeting some of its objectives. 

“Aside from these grants, I am pleased that in response to Covid-19 we have also been able to provide more than £40,000 of support to local groups and foodbanks, as well as holiday food support, across Lewes district over the past year.” 

A prospectus-style document will be drawn up once priorities are agreed and voluntary organisations will then be invited to apply.

A members’ working group will be set up to consider applications, advise on the setting of priorities and inform Cabinet on grants matters.