June 8, 2010
Not everyone has been a winner
The Lottery’s Growing Community Assets programme is done and dusted. A new and refocused version is due to be launched at the end of the month. No programme is perfect and Growing Community Assets certainly drew criticism from many quarters. Community Woodlands Association’s Jon Hollingdale writes an occasional blog and in this one he reflects on some of his frustrations with the way the fund has worked
Community Woodlands Association : Jon Hollingdale
As you might have heard, 2 more Community Woodland Groups have been turned down by the Big Lottery Fund’s Growing Community Assets – our commiserations go to both the Craignish and Nith Valley groups. Most if not all of the projects which do get funded by the Lottery are admirable examples of community asset acquisition or development, and we’re not going to criticise them, though we do question whether it’s the Lottery’s job to support projects which are demonstrably profitable without Lottery support, or might normally be seen as within the remit of Government core funding…however, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Lottery turned its back on land buyouts a long time ago; unfortunately they never had the guts to tell anybody, and they’ve been leading groups up the garden path ever since.
GCA is long-closed to new applicants, and the successor programmes are due to be launched at the end of June, with as yet, scant details of their coverage. Will they fund land acquisition? We really don’t know, probably the best we can hope for is that this time round the Lottery incorporate some honesty and transparency in their dealings with community land groups. Likewise, it’s always possible that the Scottish Government might do a U-turn and match rhetoric on community empowerment with some action – maybe they could divert some of those millions paid to farmers who don’t farm?
However, rather than sit around waiting for hell to freeeze over we think it’s probably best to at least try and explore the alternatives. Kilfinan have already succeded with a Lottery-free acquisition covering at least part of their forest, whilst Aigas are just setting out on their fundraising journey, and we’ll be doing what we can to help and ensure that ideas, lessons & successes are shared through the network. More formally, CWA is about to commission research* into new fundng models, looking for innovative ways to raise some or all of the finance needed for community asset and acquisition. Some of the ideas we’ll be exploring might challenge our fixed notions of community buyouts a bit, and I’m fairly sure none of them will be all that easy, but the silver lining might be that an asset funded by the community will be free of funders’ burdens, conditions and reporting requirements, and that really would mean community ownership and control.