Now Gravesham CAN with community grants

Community groups and organisations will be able to get money for projects and to improve facilities from a new capital fund called Gravesham CAN (Communities And Neighbourhoods).

The scheme is divided into three categories – grants up to £10,000 for major projects, smaller grants at the discretion of every of ward member of the council for local groups, and a fund to help create networks in the new communities in the borough.

The details of the eligibility rules for the scheme will be brought to a future Cabinet meeting but it is intended that the larger grants will be made by the Business and Partnerships Committee and will be allocated proportionately to the population – that is 80 per cent to urban areas, 20 per cent to rural areas.

Community groups, residents associations, clubs and societies will be able to apply.

Cllr John Burden said: “We know that these times of economic pressure have had a big impact on local community organisations many of whom have seen their funds and grants eroded. Yet, at the same time, there is pressure on voluntary groups and communities to take their own initiatives.

“These grants are intended to prime the pump and get things done to improve communities whether that is redecorating a scout hut or extending a community hall. We have set aside £500,000 over three years with £200,000 for each of the first two years and a further £100,000 for the third year.

“We want this money to make a real difference and show what the council and the community CAN do working together.”

New council homes building programme

There’s good news for the council’s 6,000 tenants and those on the house waiting list in this year’s budget.

The council is planning to build 24 new homes this year and more next year in a programme of growth with the total going up to 40 the following year.

And the council is set to launch a scheme for its tenants to get free daytime electricity by installing solar panels.

The council has appointed a consultant to select a company to provide and install the panels. It is hoped to have 500 council homes signed up by the end of March with up to 2,000 more in the next year.

The scheme will mean free daytime electricity most of the time – slashing power bills. Details will be announced soon.

Council tenants’ annual rent rises are going up by less than they would have done if the council hadn’t applied the government’s formula last year. Rents have to increase to converge social housing rents by 2015/16. This year rents will rise by 4.96% on average to £83.26 a week.

Gravesham’s average council house rents remain just below the average in Kent boroughs and district.

Council unveils three year community budget

Gravesham Borough Council’s Cabinet is set to recommend a three year balanced budget aimed at improving community facilities and protecting council services and securing future of community events.

The main points of the proposed budget for 2013/14 are:

• A 6p a week rise in council tax (1.9 per cent) which is £3.33 a year for an average (Band D) household.
• A £500,000 grant fund called Gravesham Community And Neighbourhoods (CAN) for community projects in the next three years.
• A new council house building programme.
• A freeze on car park charges and modest rises in some other council fees.
• Further savings and efficiencies in the face of another £402,000 cut in government grants (7 per cent).

Council leader Cllr John Burden said: “Over the past two years the council has made significant savings with more than 50 jobs going including major savings from the deletion of a director’s post. There have been huge savings across the council and there will be more but we have used money from the New Homes Bonus to create a sustainable three year balanced budget.

“Given the government’s continuing appetite for axing grants to local authorities, this has been a remarkable achievement but a necessary one to maintain the services we provide and to be able to continue those events the community values.

“In line with many other councils we have had to increase our portion of the domestic council tax but at just £3.33 a year it is a rise below inflation and I think it is fair and represents exceptional value for money.”

The government’s total grant cuts since 2010-11 have amounted to £2.3m which is £2.77m in real terms (taking inflation into account), and further cuts are forecast for future years, taking the total estimated real terms reduction in Central Government funding received by this authority to £3.6m (44%) on 2010-11 levels.

The total reduction in Government funding since its austerity measures began equals 41% excluding New Homes Bonus, or 18.4% if it is taken into account.