Supporting Kingston’s voluntary and community sector through the challenging financial times ahead

Kingston Council has voted to adopt a new and more sustainable way of supporting the vital and excellent work of the borough’s voluntary and community sector.

From 1 April 2016 just over £1 million, of the £1.5 million that currently sits in the grants budget, will be transferred to the council’s commissioning budget. This change will create more opportunities for the voluntary sector to co-produce and deliver local services, and will enable the council to more effectively support the sector through the challenging financial years ahead.

Councillor Julie Pickering, Lead Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Voluntary Services at Kingston Council said:

“This is a big change for the borough’s voluntary and community sector and the Council. It will forge a stronger partnership between us and lays the foundations for a more dynamic, secure and sustainable future for the many local groups that already deliver excellent and highly valued work. This is not about reducing the role or influence of the sector. On the contrary, I have made it clear that I would like to see the council double the amount of work it commissions from the voluntary and community sector by 2020.

“The financial challenge we face is unprecedented. Over the next four years the council needs to save over £37 million, equivalent to 28 per cent of its budget. Rather than cut the grants budget by as much as 30 per cent, we have decided that the budget should be protected but that the process of applying for and allocating that money should change. This will ensure we are getting the very best possible return on taxpayer’s investment, delivering clear outcomes and protecting our voluntary and community sector.”

We considered a number of options and the proposals were subject to consultation, which included workshops and outreach sessions with the voluntary and community sector. The findings showed that the majority of respondents supported the proposals to some extent, although there were some strong concerns raised around the support for smaller local groups, cash flow and administrative changes. We will be working with the sector to address these concerns over the coming months and ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements in April 2016.

Alongside the £1 million being moved into the commissioning budget, a separate pot of £120,000 will be retained for emerging needs grants of up to £3,000 each and a further £50,000 will be made available for small grants for local groups of up to £750 each. Any existing grant commitment will be honoured right through to 2017/18.

About commissioning

Kingston Council defines ‘commissioning’ as: ‘achieving the right outcomes by deciding what service is needed, how it should be delivered, and which public, private or third sector organisation should deliver it within effective use of resources.' See further information about commissioning.

Policy and Finance Committee

Councillors approved the changes at a meeting of the Policy and Finance Committee on 2 July 2015. You can see the committee papers and agenda for that meeting.