An independent review of the Glasgow Communities Fund has been published
Trust between a major local authority and voluntary sector organisations must be ‘rebuilt’ after fallouts over community funding.
An independent review of the Glasgow Communities Fund (GCF) has been published this week after cuts to the funding left many groups frustrated.
The communities fund was set up by Glasgow City Council to ‘open up’ the old Integrated Grant Fund to more organisations, but it was oversubscribed, with applications “close to three times the amount” of the fund’s budget.
And an assessment carried out by Ipsos MORI has shown organisations feel the council will need to work to rebuild trust after the fallout.
The report said: “The fact that almost half of respondents felt the fund had been unsuccessful in promoting partnership working between the council and the third sector was reflected in the strength of negative feeling about third sector experiences of the fund expressed in the groups and interviews. There was a recurrent view that the council will need to work hard to rebuild trust with the third sector.
“An unsuccessful applicant said: “The feeling is of lack of interest in what we do and the reasons we do it. They need to win that trust back, not us.”
Community groups aired concerns over “inappropriate political interference” from councillors, a lack of transparency and poor communication from the council.
The fund is worth £47.7 million over 30 months, with grants covering the period from 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2023.
In total, 224 groups missed out on money and the 258 that were successful only received part-funding. The reductions resulted in cuts being made to services and some staff being made redundant.
Originally the fund closed to applications in October 2019, and an extension was granted in January last year as around one quarter of the 506 bids were incomplete or submitted late.
The deadline for decisions was also extended to October 2020, rather than April, and focus groups reported these moves caused frustration.
They felt it reflected “inappropriate political interference” in the process, and one successful applicant said: “the council should be saying ‘I’m not giving money to organisations that can’t fill in application forms’.”
The report also reveals the rationale behind the council’s decision to only part-fund projects. It said: “In light of the high volume of applications, and the fact that the total amount of money requested was higher than the budget the council had allocated to the GCF, the council took the decision that all projects recommended for funding would only be recommended for part-funding (i.e. that each successful applicant would only be offered part of the amount they had requested in their application form). The council’s rationale was that this would enable them to fund as wide a range of recommended projects as possible, within the available GCF budget.”
In total, 241 third sector respondents took part in the survey, and 55 representatives of voluntary organisations attended either a focus group or in-depth interview discussion.
Most survey respondents (74%) felt that the information provided about the purpose of GCF had been ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ clear. Similarly, 78% felt information about eligibility criteria had been clear.
There was no agreement among respondents about the extent to which it had met its overarching aim of addressing inequality - 34% felt the fund was successful in helping the sector address inequalities across Glasgow, 33% that it was unsuccessful, and 33% said either that it had neither been successful nor unsuccessful, or that they did not know how successful it had been.
Most (83%) of survey respondents felt that the time between submitting an application and receiving a decision had been too long. Survey respondents’ perceptions of communication of feedback were particularly negative, with just under half saying feedback was unclear and a further one in five (both successful and unsuccessful) saying they had not received any feedback information at all.
A perceived lack of clear feedback on applications was another key issue identified in both the survey and the qualitative research - 45% of survey respondents felt that feedback on their applications had been unclear, while a further 19% reported that they had not received any information or communication at all with respect to feedback on their application
Improving communication was one of the most common suggested changes, as well as sticking more closely to time scales and enhancing transparency and feedback on decisions.
It was suggested an external independent body could take responsibility for making decisions on applications and that a simplified application form for group’s making smaller bids might help.
The findings will be used to provide recommendations for the next round of the fund in April 2023. They will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Wellbeing, Empowerment, Community and Citizen Engagement City Policy Committee this week.