Agenda item


Cabinet was asked to consider the recommendations of the Communities and Localism Select Committee Inquiry into the effectiveness of covid-19 grants.



Cabinet agreed responses to the Select Committee Inquiry and its recommendations, a complete breakdown of which can be found here


P Irwin, Chairman, of the Communities and Localism Select Committee and P Cooper, a member of the Inquiry Working Group, attended the meeting to present the findings of a Select Committee Inquiry undertaken to assess the effectiveness of community organization grants during the Covid-19 pandemic.


During the period 8 December 2020 to 18 January 2021 the Inquiry Group had held a number of meetings and evidence gathering sessions with key stakeholders with a view to making recommendations for Cabinet’s consideration.


Whilst the Inquiry Group recognised that many of these recommendations would require working in partnership with other organisations, they anticipated that the Council would like to lead some areas . One of the main themes running through the Inquiry report was how valuable the  voluntary sector are. There were concerns, as recognised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, that the voluntary sector might shrink in the immediate future with a reduction in fundraising leading to organisations calling on their reserves. Therefore, the promotion and protection of the voluntary sector should remain a key priority for the Council, the Strategic Funding Group, Community Impact Bucks and other partners.


The Inquiry Group hoped that the report would enable the Council to build upon its strong links with the voluntary sector and to play an even greater role in facilitating change through stronger partnership working leading to resilient and protected local communities across Buckinghamshire.


The Inquiry Group had been inspired by the voluntary work being undertaken throughout Buckinghamshire and placed on record its thanks to everyone who had helped through the pandemic which had strengthened and renewed the belief in the power of local communities. It was important that the Council was creative about embracing recent volunteers and volunteering needed to be made attractive and accessible to everyone.


Whilst recognising that the funding process had to be set-up quickly, the Inquiry Group wanted to highlight lessons learnt through its recommendations on the management of community grants for any future pandemic ensuring that:

-                     there were no gaps or duplication of services.

-                     resources were being used effectively and efficiently providing value for money for all residents through good partnership working.

-                     benefits were provided which may have a long term impact on communities.


Therefore, the Inquiry Group had made recommendations about continuing to raise awareness of the work of the voluntary sector, continuing the effective collaboration with strategic partners, building on the legacy of volunteering, continued support for funding including looking at how Council and community assets could be used further and the need to provide value for money by using a structural enabler to ensure that resources are being used effectively.  The role of Community Boards was key in this process and could act as a structural enabler in terms of co-ordinating funding at a local level to ensure that grants are only given where clear local need is demonstrated.


The Inquiry Group’s key findings and recommendations were set out in the report attached at Appendix 1.  The Leader also thanked the committee for the work and subsequent recommendations and thanked all supporting officers.


G Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Pubic Health, presented a draft response on behalf of Cabinet (attached as an appendix to the Minutes of this meeting) on the Select Committee Inquiry report and its recommendations  and concurred with the Inquiry Group on the importance of the community organisations and supporting volunteers.  Cabinet Members commented on the responses or raised the following points during discussion:

·                     Councillor Irwin confirmed that the Chairman of the Council had already been contacted regarding a one-minute clap being held at the beginning of the April 2021 full Council meeting to say thank you to all those who had helped during the pandemic.

·                     It was recognised that many of the volunteers during the pandemic had been on furlough.  While some of these people may not continue as volunteers when life returned to normal, there were also many people new to volunteering that would continue to do so into the future.

·                     That there were many examples of where a small funding grant provided by the Council had made a huge difference to small local community organisations, e.g. Winslow Big Society.

·                     That the level of diversity and different sections of the community who didn’t usually work together, working together, had been remarkable.

·                     That, like any reserve force, a challenge for the future would be to ensure that organisations, including the Council, kept in contact with volunteers, kept them motivated and provided some training, and showed people that their contributions were meaningful and valued.  It was agreed that Community Boards would have a role to play in this.



(1)               That the Select Committee Inquiry Group, as well as supporting officers, be thanked for their work and subsequent recommendations.

(2)               That Cabinet’s responses to the Inquiry Group’s report and recommendations, as detailed in the appendix to the Minutes, be noted.

Supporting documents: