Agenda item

Agenda item

Strategic Grants Review

Cabinet, at its meeting on 15 December, will consider a report on the Strategic Grants Review. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Cllr Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Ian Brooke, Head of Community Services, have been invited to attend for this item. 

No report was brought to Scrutiny last year concerning grants. However, a number of grants-related recommendations were made as part of the Domestic Abuse Review Group, which are attached.



In advance of the first item of substantive business a brief presentation was made to the Committee on behalf of some of Oxford’s advice centres and in anticipation of item 8 on the Agenda, Strategic Grants Review.  Sue Tanner, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Rosehill and Donnington, spoke on  behalf of the three local advice centres, Agnes Smith in Blackbird Leys; Barton and Rose Hill; and Donnington. She drew attention to a paper which had been distributed by them to members of the Committee in advance of the meeting. A copy of that paper is attached to these minutes.

Advice centres had suffered significant cuts in grant funding in recent years and were now faced with a proposal to remove the Development Fund and to cut a further £25,000 from the budget for advice centres and Citizens Advice.

Advice centres carry out work which, was in effect delegated, to  them by  the City Council, such as the distribution of the Covid support grants and receiving referrals from the Hubs.  All the work they did was in line with Council’s strategic priorities.

Advice centres worked in the most deprived areas of the city, bringing  financial gains for clients in those neighbourhoods . Last year the three centres helped clients to access nearly £10 million,  which was a good return on the £0.5 million received from the City Council.

She hoped that the Committee would recommend rejection of the proposal to reduce by £25,000 the core funding to the advice centres

Cllr Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities, introduced the report by first thanking Sue Tanner for her presentation at the beginning of the meeting and for the important contribution made by all those who work in advice centres. The workload of advice centres had undoubtedly increased as a result of Covid, having to  deal with a multitude of issues, frequently affecting the most vulnerable   members of the community and  particularly women. The proposals before the Committee didn’t seek to identify, specifically, where cuts would be made but, rather, to set out  a strategy for making such decisions in due course. Comments made at this stage would help to inform the strategy.

Cllr Aziz  was grateful for the letter which had been sent to members of the Committee on behalf of the advice centres  in advance of the meeting  and said she would be pleased to meet their representatives to discuss their concerns. It was agreed that this letter should inform the Budget Review group’s deliberations.

The strategy sought to set out a new approach to grant funding which supported the following principles: equalities at the heart of the programme; recovery from Covid; tackling deprivation; and environmentally sustainable. The strategy also sought to make the process of accessing grants easier and, in particular, to facilitate access to grants by organisations/groups  which had not done so previously.

Ian Brooke,  Head of Community Services, said the need to take £200k from the overall programme was a difficult and unwelcome challenge. The review process leading to this point had been lengthy and detailed, involving conversations with as many relevant people as possible to inform the proposals now before the Committee. The contribution of advice centres was not in question, and the written submission made in advance of the Committee provided the basis of some helpful options to be explored.

The Committee raised a number of matters which were responded to by Cllr Aziz and the Head of Community Services. 

The opportunity to apply for three year grants was welcome; the extension of that to allow subsequent rolling renewal would be valuable as it would provide further confidence and continuity for those benefitting from the grants.

The leverage potential of grants to generate subsequent savings/income  for individuals and groups was recognised, making the provision of some grants particularly cost effective. There were some data about the ‘multiplier effect’ for some grants. It was suggested that it would be helpful to see these data. It was  also noted however that grants with a high multiplier effect might be financially beneficial but this was not, necessarily, the same as the provision of high value in a broader sense.

The proposals to ensure that the provision of grants was linked to the Council’s objectives was very welcome  as was the transparency about grant criteria and weighting which made it very clear to applicants what was expected of them.

The Committee resolved to recommend to Cabinet that the Council:

1.         Permits (but does not oblige) organisations granted three-year grant funding to reapply for such funding on an annual basis; and

2.         Makes available tickets for the Oxford Lottery at cash registers in the Town Hall, such as the museum shop and coffee shop.



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