Big Lottery Awards: Getting The Balance Right on Community Funding

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I was delighted to receive notification recently that three very deserving causes in Liverpool Walton have received National Lottery funding so far this year via the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes monies to community groups and projects that improve health, education and the environment. 

The Liverpool County Football Association – based in Walton Park - received £90,000 in June.  A “Heroes Return” award of £150 was made to an individual in the constituency in August.  And the Breckfield and North Everton Neighbourhood Council benefited to the tune of £305,000.  Every little helps, as they say, and this £400,000 cash-injection is great news for Walton residents. 

But I also picked up on the huge discrepancy between recipient constituencies, locally.  Six projects in Liverpool Riverside were granted a combined total of £1,063,880 over the same period.   Halewood and Garston received just two awards totalling £31,775.  At the other end of the scale, a couple of applicants in West Derby attracted a mere £3,500.

This is revealing.  Don’t get me wrong – the Fund which distributes the awards seeks to be scrupulously fair and judicious in its vetting and decision making processes.  And I’m confident that all of the awards made to Liverpool applicants this year have been thoroughly justified.  What’s more, a number of the projects falling under the umbrella of Liverpool Riverside were actually city wide or sub regional concerns, merely based in the area.

Nevertheless, it brought home to me the ongoing challenge of ensuring that the time, effort, and money that’s been ploughed so successfully into the city centre in recent times is extended to the outer suburbs of the city at large and to the city region beyond that.  The received wisdom is that the regeneration of city centres, as the ‘hearts’ or ‘urban hubs’ of larger metropolises, will have a knock-on effect.  It can – Liverpool’s renaissance is spreading out into the inner suburbs.  But there is a long way to go.  And it will not happen on a wing and a prayer. 

Perusing the awards also reminded me of the intrinsic value and merit of community-led initiatives - and that David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea is nothing new.  Scousers have a long and proud tradition of community activism and there are very many examples of successful, long-established groups and associations working in and for their communities - the Breckfield and North Everton Neighbourhood Council, mentioned above, being one. 

With adequate support, these community-based drivers have the potential to achieve great things and to act as catalysts for meaningful urban and suburban regeneration.  We local politicians need to help harness that potential, to look ahead strategically and to ensure we assist local communities in determining and pursuing their own priorities and attracting the funding they so deserve. 

Much as it pains me to agree with anything uttered by our current Prime Minister, I have to say that he’s right on one score (though I deliberately misinterpret his simplistic and patronising message of mass hardship willingly embraced) - at the local level, we are all in this together and it’s only by pulling together as a series of connected communities that we’ll secure a better future for Liverpool. 

I, for one, will gladly and actively support any worthy causes based in the constituency and would urge local groups to keep me advised of intended funding bids.

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