Opinion

Communities get financial assistance but is it a good idea?

By Jim Rae

I am going to go out on a limb here. Just how many of the people or organisations that will read this latest piece from me has ever heard of or has knowledge of the WSCC Members’ Big Society Fund?

The answer I suspect is not many, but please don’t feel at all sensitive about this; until I was elected in May I had no idea that this fund (and a couple more besides) even existed. I am sure WSCC have publicised it their way, but there is nothing like getting this type of information into a newspaper, is there?

Before I get possible applicants all hot, sweaty and excited, we are not talking telephone numbers; applicants will be able to pitch for funding in the range of £2k- £25k via their local county councillor who must agree with the intended project’s aims and objectives then sponsor the application.

The project/organisation must:

Be of significance to a local community or West Sussex as a whole, and be both sustainable and of lasting benefit.

Be consistent with the county council’s aims and objectives.

Be unable to obtain full funding from a county council service, or any other local council, or government funded organisation for the project, or a specific part of the project.

Some examples of successful applications being:

A towable grit spreader for a rural community, to protect vulnerable residents in severe weather.

A new community store, incorporating an internet workstation and a Post Office collection service, to help create a more cohesive community in an isolated location.

An upgrade to a building to assist with the wider provision of Youth Services in the northern section of the county.

I am aware of two current applications being constructed in our local area, the first being for some funding for the Horsham Riverside Walk Project; the walk as most will know is a wonderful community asset desperately in need of some TLC. The other for top-up funding for a valued sports club, this club has had the initiative to have already captured around three-quarters of the funding for a project that will aim not only to improve the health of the local community but also reduce the incidence of anti-social behaviour by engaging members of our community in sporting activity.

In years gone by this and other funds were not in existence, this fund has been created to encourage and assist organisations to bring forward projects for the betterment of their local communities and possibly West Sussex as a whole.

In these financially difficult days, I am sure most residents will not expect your county council to provide all the “nice to haves” out of its income; after all a large part of that total income is taken from every one of us in the form of council tax.

Personally I can see what the county council is trying to achieve, I believe this fund and its pump-priming of community projects is a very good use of taxpayer’s monies – but what do you think?

Is it right and proper for your county council to use taxpayer’s monies this way?

Why not write and give me your opinions; after all I have given you mine?

Remember, if you have a community project that you think fits with the aims and objectives of this fund; then contact your local county councillor now.

If you don’t then someone else will, then another community will get the benefit from the funds that you could have captured for your local community.

I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

These are the personal opinions of Jim Rae and are not intended to represent those of either Horsham District or Sussex County Councils.

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