The Leader of the Council, Councillor Azad, stated that the purpose of the final Executive meeting of the year was to resolve the Council’s collective support for the most vulnerable people in the Borough, adding that the pandemic had shown the importance of local community and voluntary organisations.
The Portfolio Holder for Grants to Voluntary and Community Organisations, Councillor Ashall, introduced the report and stated that Woking had a long and proud history of providing financial and in-kind support to local voluntary and charitable organisations. Due to the financial effects of the pandemic, the Council had been unable to continue the same level of support as in previous years, with savings of circa £270,000 being been identified. However, the overall level of support provided to the sector amounted to over £1.7m and included discretionary rate relief, community lettings, car park passes and a small grants scheme.
The Executive had before it proposals which recommended grant awards of at least 10% less than the previous year, depending on factors such as the alignment with the Council’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the level of reserves held. A balance between consistency and flexibility had been sought. All awards were provisional on the Council’s approving the overall budget at its meeting on 10 February 2022.
Councillor Forster advised that it had been useful to hold the pre-meetings in advance of the Executive as it enabled cross-party support to be achieved for the majority of the applications, although expressed concern at the reduction in light of the grants budget remaining at the same level for many years and the pandemic reducing the opportunities for fundraising. He stated that the pandemic had shown the importance of the voluntary sector; it was important to not make any reductions which could cost the Council more in the future; and that he understood the reasoning for the reductions, if not agreeing with them all.
That (i) the report be noted; and
(ii) any unused funds remaining in the budget from the 2022/23 financial year be transferred to the Community Fund.
Reason: To determine financial support for voluntary and community organisations through the Council’s Community Grants Scheme for the 2022/23 financial year.