Council’s grant funding to be cut by half

Lib Dem Francis Oppler has criticised cuts to community grant funding by West Sussex County Council
Lib Dem Francis Oppler has criticised cuts to community grant funding by West Sussex County Council

Grant funding for community groups and organisations in West Sussex is set to be cut in half by the county council next year.

The total budget for the Members’ Big Society Fund, Community Initiative Fund, and Small Grants Fund was £660,000 in 2017/18, but a single fund is set to be created and supported by an online crowdfunding platform.

However the total budget for 2018/19 is set to be reduced to £330,000 by West Sussex County Council.

Lib Dem Francis Oppler said: “I have deep reservations regarding this new system. I think it’s going to freeze out many of the smaller local groups.

“We are spreading less money, 50 per cent less money overall, over a far greater distance.”

In response Debbie Kennard, cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, described the changes as a ‘great opportunity for our communities’.

She said: “This is to reach into our communities, this is for us to do the best for our communities, we were not reaching our communities with the money and the funds that we had.

“So this is a better way of us reaching our communities and doing the things we need for our communities and to have a positive attitude and go ahead.”

Mr Oppler described being ‘deeply disappointed’ with her response at a Full Council meeting earlier this month, as the funding has made a ‘significant difference’.

A spokesman for the county council said it was ‘proud’ of its long-running commitment to supporting community activities.

The spokesman added: “We have reviewed the way we provide funding to local community groups and have recognised that it can be difficult for groups to access our grants. We want to both streamline the process of applying for grants to make sure all groups have the same opportunities to access funding and at the same time maximise the overall availability of funding to support community action.

“We will be launching a new online crowd funding platform which will bring together all funding available from the council and other funders across our county for community groups into one accessible area. We believe this will make the council’s available funding go further for local groups, by combining contributions from the County Council with donations from others, including businesses and members of the public.

“This approach has worked well in other areas and has been proven to generate much more funding for key community projects and opened up the level of awareness of local projects to a much wider audience.”

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