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July 16, 2008

English Community Anchor Organisations to Share £70m

The largest single programme announced in the new English White Paper – ‘Communities in Control’ – is the £70m Communitybuilders fund which will benefit around 400 organisations from across England – which provide a focal point for action in their communities. Scotland has no equivalent fund

Rosie Niven, newstart

A £70m fund designed to support and develop local organisations that provide a vital focal point for community life was announced by the government this week.

The Communitybuilders fund, a joint programme between DCLG and the Office of the Third Sector, is the largest single programme in Communities in control, the long-awaited empowerment white paper, which set out a package of measures to empower individuals and organisations.

Communitybuilders will support organisations known as community anchors in promoting community groups, active citizens and local social entrepreneurs. Around 400 organisations from across the country will benefit from the scheme, which is supported with £59m from the DCLG and £llm from the Office of the Third Sector.

But the £70m represents just half of the funding that was anticipated by the Community Alliance, a coalition of organisations that has been championing the cause of community anchors.

Mark Parker, head of policy at alliance member Bassac, said he was disappointed to see that less money was available. ‘It is a really small pot to meet great demand from communities around the country. But given the fact that it’s the first funding to be directed at community anchors, we welcome it.’

Matthew Scott, director of the Community Sector Coalition, said: ‘It would have been great to have the £140m and we would be interested in the rationale behind reducing it.’ Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of the Adventure Capital Fund, welcomed the announcement. ‘When you are creating a market that didn’t exist before, you need enough money to make a difference and £70m will make a difference,’ he said.

The white paper, which included few other new initiatives, announced the creation of an asset transfer unit to provide information to organisations

wanting to run their own services or assets. It will extend the forthcoming duty to involve to additional bodies, including regional development agencies, the Homes and Communities Agency and Jobcentre Plus.

The govemment will also consult on a draft prospectus for an empowerment fund of at least £7.5m, to be launched later this year. This will provide support for existing national third sector organisations which are helping local communities turn proposals in the paper into practical action in areas such as community leadership, involvement in planning and social enterprise.

But the white paper has been criticised for ignoring the power of community action, as predicted by sector leaders last week (New Start, 4 July). A coalition of five organisations, led by the Carnegie Trust, this week said the document focused too much on devolving power to individuals, bypassing the strengths of community groups.