October 10, 2012
The Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund was established to support community led regeneration by investing in community anchor organisations. But a glance at the first tranche of awards has left most observers puzzled to say the least. The fact that 80% of awards went to housing associations has convinced many that this is the former Wider Role Fund in all but name. And to see the name of Glasgow Housing Association on the list is even more puzzling. Community owned and led? Surely something has been lost in the translation.
Felix Spittal, policy officer, SCVO
The first twenty projects approved by the People and Communities Fund (PCF) have just been announced. To those unfamiliar with the fund, a quick read of the list of successful organisations and projects might lead you to think this fund was established for housing associations to deliver employability programmes. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be a problem because these are clearly worthy projects being delivered by good organisations.
However, the PCF is part of the government’s regeneration strategy and is supposed to be delivering community led regeneration through ‘Community Anchors’. Community Anchors are independent community led organisations which act as a focal point for communities.
Housing associations are only one of many types of anchor which can include development trusts, village halls, renewable projects or other organisations which perform the role of connecting groups in a community. So it’s disappointing to see housing associations being allocated the vast majority of the funding in this announcement. This is not to denigrate housing associations or the vital role they perform but to suggest that other types of anchor should be recognised and supported too.
In addition, the emphasis within the fund on established organisations means that new anchors struggling to get started and establish themselves will not be supported. Surely if you want to support community led regeneration it would be good to fund some new community anchors to establish themselves and start working towards regenerating their communities?
This is a minor quibble compared to the biggest issue with the fund. The projects and services funded by the PCF have to align with two priorities – employability and prevention. These are not bad priorities and would be fine for another funding programme.
However, the PCF is there to deliver community led regeneration. Community led regeneration should be about communities deciding what the priorities are in their area, then designing and delivering the solutions at a local level. So this programme is not funding community led regeneration, it is funding organisations to deliver two government objectives.
Recent discussions on Community Planning at SCVO’s workshop on the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill identified a similar problem. One of the major issues delegates have with Community Planning is its name – if it was called the ‘Public Sector Strategic Planning Partnership’ it would be better, because at least it would be clear to everyone what it’s about.
So the People and Communities Fund could be more accurately named the ‘Housing Association Employability and Prevention Fund’. That would be fine, as long as additional funding is allocated specifically for community led regeneration, with broad aims that allow communities to decide their own priorities. Isn’t that what community empowerment is all about?