Community groups to lose out on cash

Oxfordshire County Council
Oxfordshire County Council

Community groups in Banburyshire could miss out on vital cash next year after Oxfordshire County Council decided to scrap its Big 
Society Fund.

The fund – administered for the past two years through the Councillor Community Budget scheme (CCB) – gave councillors a £10,000 grant to give to community groups of their choice.

But the council has decided not to continue with the funding after March 31, leaving councillors to find other ways of supporting groups in their area.

Councillor Mark Cherry, who represents the Ruscote ward in Banbury, donated £5,000 of his 2013/2014 budget to Frank Wise School for its new drama room.

He said: “It is with deep regret that I have learnt all county councillors’ Big Society Fund or CCB fund will cease after March 31.

“I felt I was doing good work with my fund as I have helped charities such as Home-Start and their work with children. All county councillors must share my disappointment at this news.”

The Big Society Fund was initially launched in 2011.

A total of £600,000 was set aside for communities to bid for start-up funding to help them take responsibility for providing services in their community and to support new forms of service provision more tailored to local needs.

The fund proved to be a great success, with the council’s approach enabling services at all of its 26 youth centres to continue, including retaining 13 that had been due to close.

Examples of other successful projects include Glyme Hall at Chipping Norton School, which had a grant to help the community and develop youth provision in the town, while Chipping Norton Town Council created a community snow plan to help clear roads and pavements during wintery conditions

In Banbury, Grimsbury Young People’s Centre used funds to establish local provision for young people in the area and Easington Sports Football Club used a grant to help develop its clubhouse in Addison Road for wider use in the community.

In 2012, and again in 2013, the fund was then administered through the CCB scheme.

This change was devised to fit the Big Society framework and designed to take advantage of councillors’ local knowledge and to encourage community action and support to tackle recognised community need.

All cash allocated last year must be spent by the end of March 2014.

A statement from Oxfordshire County Council said: “The was fund was only made possible in 2012/13 and 2013/14 by one-off funding each year, however it is proposed not to continue in 2014/15.

“The fund provides small-scale start-up funding for one-off community projects.

“Other funding sources for such future schemes would still be available via the lottery or district councils.”

Councillor Hilary Hibbert- Biles, the unty council’s cabinet member for public health and the voluntary sector, was unavailable to comment.