Councillors and committees

Agenda item

Corporate Grants Programme – Moving to a Commissioning Approach


To propose changes to the management of the Council’s Corporate Grants Programme and move from an application process towards a commissioning approach, while retaining some level of small grants.


Members  gave consideration to proposals to move towards a commissioning approach in respect of the Council’s corporate grants programme.


The Council was seeking to redefine relationships between communities service providers and individuals and the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) had an essential role to play, not just as potential providers of services but also in helping to shape and define them. Around £13.7m was spent by the Council commissioning services from VCS organisations each year.


It  was now proposed that the existing corporate grants programme cease with effect from 1st April 2016 and the majority of the annual grants budget of £1.538m  be moved into commissioning budgets, aligned to appropriate outcomes. Ongoing agreements or residual funding that the Council had already awarded on a multi year basis would be honoured for the duration of the agreement. A sum of £100,000 would be set aside from the budget to help organisations through the first two years of change, allocated on a case by case basis through an application process. A further £120,000 would be retained for one off discretionary grants for emerging needs up to a maximum of £3,000 and £50,000 for small grants under £750 determined by Officers under delegated powers.


The Committee received and noted each of the 148 individual responses to an online consultation and the outcome of six focus groups for VCS representatives, as well as the full Equality Impact .Assessment. It was noted that 62% of respondents had expressed a level of support for the proposals.


Members did, however, take account of concerns raised both in the consultation responses and in verbal submissions by representatives of VCs groups at the meeting. Issues included;


·        the implications of potentially increased competition within the sector,

·        the organisational impact of engaging in commissioning including administrative demands and the distraction from delivery of services

·        uncertainty of outcome for individual organisations.

·        the consultation methodology applied

·        a potential liability for VAT

·        the potential erosion of collaborative working within the sector

·        the risk of domination by a small number of large charities


The Committee acknowledged that change was difficult but expressed the view that the new arrangements would ultimately prove beneficial to the VCS, increasing the sums available to it through the opportunities to widen activities. While the Council had undertaken a number of events on the way in which it commissioned services it was clear from the consultation that further work was needed to ensure a greater understanding within the VCS. The process for commissioning services would follow the Council’s Commissioning framework and process and the Council was committed to working with strategic partners in supporting all organisations through the understanding of this process, particularly the 20 or so smaller organisations that received grants of between £3-10,000 and had no experience of commissioning. Most of the VCS organisations were, it was noted, already familiar with the concept and the recipients of very small grants were not affected by the changes


It was emphasised that the process would be proportionate and flexible to manage the burden on smaller organisations. Competition would not be required in every case.  Commissioners would work with partners to ensure that they had an understanding of the service delivery. Where possible the Council would commit to longer contracts in order to allow organisations more certainty than was presently the case. Social value and local provision would be taken into account in order to ensure that a small number of large organisations did not monopolise the provision. It was acknowledged that VAT could impact on cash flows but it would not ultimately reduce income and systems could be put into place to minimise the bureaucratic burdens.


The Committee was therefore of the view that the proposals should be adopted and asked for regular reports back to Members to ensure that implementation was proceeding smoothly.




1.    The policy set out above and in the agenda report which changes the management and administration of the current corporate grants programme to a commissioning approach from April 2016 be approved and as a consequence:


? £1,052,650 (less LBGS) of current grants allocation be transferred to commissioning budgets in 2016/17


? £100,000 be retained for transition funding in 2016/17


? £120,000 be retained for discretionary grants up to £3k each (emerging needs)


? £50,000 be retained for small grants up to £750 each


? Existing grant commitments for 2016/17 and 2017/18 continue to be honoured.


2.         reports on progression with the implementation of the proposals be reported back to the appropriate Committee at the end of September 2015 and in three monthly intervals thereafter.




For; Councillors Bass, Cottington, Cunningham, Davis, Day, Hayes, Hudson, Humphrey  and Pickering (9)

Against: Councillors Ayles, Davies, Moll and Reid.(4)

Abstain: None






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