Community Challenge Fund campaign invites more applications.
The Highland Council is challenging communities and community groups to ask themselves: Can we run a Council service ourselves and do it better or at lower cost? Can we take over an asset owned by the Council and make better use of it for our community? Can we do something now in our community which will prevent demand for Council services increasing in the future?
The Council’s Community Challenge Fund supports community groups who wish to take direct control of services currently provided by the Council, or take ownership of buildings or other assets owned by the Council. The Challenge Fund is used to cover the costs of transferring these services or assets to the community and, if the bid is successful, an appropriate budget to run the service is also transferred to the community.
Three community groups have already applied successfully for funding. Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company have taken over the village officer role of street cleaning, winter gritting of footpaths and some grounds maintenance.
Kirkmichael Trust in the Black Isle is to receive funding to help it take over and restore a ruined church building, owned by the Council, which they will develop as a heritage; and Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust have taken over the running of the pontoons and public toilets in Kyle.
The Council wants to hear from communities that have ideas for local facilities that they would be willing to manage with support from the Community Challenge Fund.
To generate more interest, the Council is widely promoting the fund and in particular highlighting the criteria and purpose of the fund. This includes discussion at Area Committees and Ward Forums. At the same time the Council is providing more support to community groups with their applications and support Council staff to help with the implementation of the fund.
The Council has also widened the criteria to encourage community groups to provide services which prevent new demands for services arising from deprivation. The criteria now includes: rural deprivation and access to services in rural areas, reducing and preventing fuel poverty and supporting employability, including through voluntary activity.
Depute Leader Councillor David Alston said. “We firmly believe that active communities make a real difference to the Highlands and want to further support the good work that is done through the development of community groups and initiatives. We are empowering our communities to run Council services in their own areas with this £1million funding that we have set aside.
“This could be maintenance of local toilets; or street cleaning; or grounds maintenance and community works – or perhaps care services, day care or nurseries are what is important in your community? We want to hear how your community might take up the Community Challenge.”
The next expressions of interest to the fund should be submitted by 1 August, followed by a further application round on 1 November. Groups are encouraged to speak to their local Councillor or Ward Manager about any potential idea.
Leaflets about the Community Challenge Fund have been produced and distributed to all Highland Community Councils, and will be available from Council Service Points, Offices and local Ward Managers.
Community councils, community groups and established social enterprises are invited to express their interest via a one-page form which is available on the Council’s web site at www.highland.gov.uk/challengefund.