Wigan 'can’t do what we used to do,' offers residents £2m deal
Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing
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Is Wigan the future? Occasionally the victim of southern prejudice, Wigan is opting for honesty as the best policy. "The traditional role of councils is changing”, it warns, but there's a £2 million sweetener for its residents.
The council says a share of the lolly "is up for grabs for anyone – from charities and community groups to individual residents - with plans to tackle the borough’s biggest problems".
Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: "Supporting our communities to help themselves is an important part of 'The Deal'. We’ve launched it because we simply can’t do what we used to do - or do things in the way we used to do them."
The Deal opened Monday with the money coming from the council’s financial reserves – hinting this may not be a long-term arrangement - and will be put towards community ideas that address the council’s priorities.
"The Deal for Communities Investment Fund is about putting money into our communities directly. Following the huge cuts the council has faced from central government, we’ve had to adapt and take a new approach. This is about giving community-based projects the money to perform important work and letting them get on with that work," Smith said.
"Community groups, charities and residents are often better placed than the council to tackle problems in their neighbourhoods so it makes sense for us to seek community-based solutions. It’s no longer just about providing services. It’s about working with communities and other organisations. It’s about achieving our goals – and the goals of our residents – in new ways."
A similar scheme was run last year with almost 100 applications and 12 projects receiving funding.
"Finding the funding has not been easy. Careful money management and prudent financial planning has meant we’re able to invest £4m in our communities. This is quite an achievement considering we will have to cut £105.8m by the end of 2016/17, a total reduction of more than 30% of our budget," Smith said.
"When we ran a similar scheme last year, the response from residents was fantastic," said Smith, who is also a lord. "We were able to fund 12 projects that are already making a big difference in our communities addressing some of the most serious social issues we face. I’m sure we will get applications of a similar quality this year."
Deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 15 August. The council wants bids that address four key areas: children and young people, people with complex needs, older people and building community hubs.
Applications will be grouped into three categories – small investments of up to £5,000 for grassroots groups looking to do something different, start-up investments of up to £10,000 for groups looking to develop a bigger idea and big idea investments of up to £250,000 for organisations with fully developed ideas.
More information on www.wigan.gov.uk/communitydeal