Transforming Local Infrastructure fund could leave BME VCOs out in the cold

On 15th July the Office for Civil Society Transforming Local Infrastructure programme was launched for infrastructure or support organisations.  The fund, worth £30 million, is intended as short term funding to transform local infrastructure to better meet user needs and respond to the economic reality.

Grants of between £250,000 and £400,000 per local authority area (or up to £600,000 where there are populations of over 1 million people) are available for activities such as collaboration and consolidation, better links with local business, service redesign and sustainability.  Big Lottery Fund (BLF) is administering the grants. They will only accept one application per upper tier local authority area.  If there is more than one infrastructure organisation, organisations will have to work in partnership to develop a joint application.  If more than one application is submitted per area they will be discounted unless there are ‘frivolous and contentious expressions of interest’ which BLF reserves the right to declare ineligible.

Vandna Gohil said: ‘Voice4Change England is strongly concerned that the Transforming Local Infrastructure fund will marginalise BME and other equality led support organisations.  As small, specialist organisations, BME support organisations are unlikely to become lead partners and risk being relegated to an ‘equalities tick box’ role.  The short timescales, which are not Compact compliant, allow little time to develop partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect.  We believe that BME and generic ISOs need to work better together, but this should be an organic process to better meet users needs and not driven by top down funding requirements.  In the past generic services have not had the organisational capacity or reach to act as an effective or trusted voice for the BME VCS’.

Voice4Change England asks:

  • Those leading partnerships to work with BME local and regional VCOs from the outset to ensure BME VCOs are not left out in the cold.
  • BLF to work with Voice4Change England to lead the way on valuing and supporting equality led support organisations in its additional £20m infrastructure programme.
  • Governmentto explain how it will meet the public sector equality duty; to release any assessment that has been done as to what impact the fund will have on promoting equality; and to explain what monitoring requirements will be in place to ensure diverse VCOs, including BME VCOs can benefit from the fund.

Calling all BME ISOs

  • Will you benefit from the Transforming Local Infrastructure fund? 
  • Are you aware of any local partnerships? 
  • Have you been invited to join one? 
  • How involved in the process do you feel? 

We want to hear from you – both good and bad experiences.

Email your feedback to ravi@voice4change-england.co.uk.

Voice4Change England will be writing to the Government to raise our concerns and to request a copy of any impact assessment carried out.

 

Transforming Local Infrastructure fund details

  • The Transforming Local Infrastructure programme for infrastructure or support organisations was launched on 15th July.
  • Transforming Local Infrastructure is funded by the Office for Civil Society and administered by the BLF.
  • The fund is worth £30 million.  Grants available are between £250,000 and £400,000 per local authority area or up to £600,000 where there are populations of over 1 million people.
  • Projects will start in March 2012 and run for up to 18 months.
  • BIG fund will only accept one application per upper tier local authority area.  If there is more than one infrastructure organisation, organisations will have to work in partnership to develop a joint application.  If more than one application is submitted per area they will be discounted unless there are ‘frivolous and contentious expressions of interest’ which BIG fund reserves to right to declare ineligible.
  • If infrastructure organisations want to be involved in forming a partnership in their area they must register online by 5th August.  They should then contact each other in local areas and agree a lead.  Lead organisations will need to submit expressions of interest by 2nd September.
  • There are limited funds: project activities will not be funded in all local areas.
  • BIG say that applicants will have to demonstrate how their proposals will help promote equalities.  An area’s bid could chose to prioritise work in specific localities or with specific groups.

The Fund will support:

  • Collaboration and consolidation; creating more efficient, effective and agile organisations through rethinking business models, asset consolidation, merger of back-office functions and shared services.
  • Redesign and integration of services towards more imaginative and enterprising approaches that are valued and supported locally.
  • Better links with local businesses; more peer-to-peer support within the local VCS and stronger partnerships with local statutory bodies, particularly the relevant local authority.
  • Sustainability in the long term without ongoing support from central Government.

Projects must meet all outcomes:

  • Frontline VCOs can access a wider range of high quality support, networking and volunteering brokerage opportunities and value them more highly.
  • There is stronger local leadership for VCOs which contributes to better partnerships with local businesses and the local statutory sector.
  • Infrastructure organisations, including volunteering infrastructure, are transformed so that they are more efficient, effective and able to learn and grow with less dependence on state funding.

 

  • Since the fund has been launched Big Fund has pledged a further £20million for infrastructure development in the future – details of this will be announced later in the year.

For more information visit the BIG fund website: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/prog_transforming_local_infrastructure.htm?regioncode=-uk