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Blears commits to a thriving community sector

Published 9 July 2008

Secretary of State for Communities Hazel Blears has today announced the Government's commitment to further strengthen the role of community organisations and the third sector across England.

The £70m Communitybuilders fund, a joint programme between Communities and Local Government and the Office of the Third Sector, is the largest single programme in the Communities in control: real people, real power White Paper published today. It is also the largest investment by Government in a programme of this kind, designed to help community organisations grow and thrive.

This programme responds to calls from the third sector for more support for such community organisations, enabling them to continue to thrive and promote community groups, active citizens and local social entrepreneurs, and help drive forward an enhanced role for the citizen in local governance.

Around 400 organisations from across the country will benefit from the scheme. In turn they will pass on that support to many more community groups in their area, creating a strong base for active citizens which will inspire new ideas and initiatives from which whole communities will benefit.

Communitybuilders is just one part of a larger package of support for the third sector in the White Paper. The White Paper recognises the importance of creating the conditions for a healthy third sector, and this package will support all aspects of community activity at the local level - from community leadership to commissioning, from social media to social entrepreneurs, from petitions to participatory budgeting.

At the launch of the White Paper today, Hazel Blears said:

"Local residents have a strong understanding of what they want and need in their neighbourhood, and community organisations help to strengthen and empower all members of a community to become actively involved in the wellbeing being of their local area.

"The Communitybuilders scheme is a powerful, practical way to help empower people in their local community. It will support and develop the local organisations that provide a vital focal point for community life, bringing people together and providing services and activities under one roof.

"The third sector have made it clear that there is a real need for this type of funding - supporting community organisations to become more independent and delivered by someone who understands them and their needs alongside a broader package of measures. The Government has listened and this is exactly what we will be doing with this programme - one part of approaching £100m of new support for the third sector."

Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector in the Cabinet Office, said:

"Today's White Paper reflects the desire across Government to do more to release the energies and talents of communities, and empower people at the local level to make a difference.

"I welcome the strong emphasis in the paper on the importance of promoting a thriving third sector, and the support offered for all aspects of local voluntary activity and community-led organisations.

"The Communitybuilders programme is the biggest investment of its kind in community-led organisations that work at the heart of neighbourhoods. Alongside grassroots grants and the community assets programme, this will enable them to become more financially secure and enhance their ability to increase life chances and strengthen our communities."

Iain Tuckett, Group Director of Coin Street Community Builders said,

"The Communitybuilders programme has the potential to enable a new generation of independent, sustainable, neighbourhood-based organisations which could transform the way we think about regeneration and the meeting of local needs. It allows for the investment of significant resources in the project feasibility and organisational development which are essential to the creation of robust bodies capable of attracting private finance and playing a significant role in enabling communities to define and meet their needs."

A delivery partner will be selected following a competitive procurement process starting in due course, and funding is expected to begin in Spring 2009.

Note to editors

1. This programme is part of the package of support announced in the White Paper for the third sector, which taken together represents approaching £100m of new investment.

2. It has been developed following recommendations from the Local Community Sector Task Force, the Third Sector Review, and experience from social investors, such as the Adventure Capital Fund. The Community Alliance, supported by Government, has been promoting the concept of these types of organisations as the basis for stronger communities, supporting active citizens and entrepreneurs.

3. Communities and Local Government committed to investment in the Community Empowerment Action Plan in October 2007 and have been working with partners to assess demand and design a programme to meet current needs most effectively since.

4. Details of the selection process for appointing the national partner, which will be through competitive procurement, will be announced shortly.

5. Communities in Control was launched today at Cambridge House, itself an example of the type of organisation that this programme is designed to support to improve and extend their facilities. Cambridge House provides direct provision of services to individuals, families and communities, and by operating as a local neighbourhood resource and development agency, providing support to local community groups, voluntary organisations and community initiatives.

6. Other examples include Coin Street Community Builders (CSSB) on London's South Bank. This is a social enterprise which seeks to make the area a better place in which to live, to work and to visit. CSCB has transformed a largely derelict 13 acre site into a thriving mixed use neighbourhood by creating new co-operative homes; shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars; a park and riverside walkway; sports facilities; by organising festivals and events; and by providing childcare, family support, learning, and enterprise support programmes. For further examples please see www.communityalliance.org (external link).

7. The programme will:

  • more support for the role of local third sector organisations in unlocking the talent of local communities
  • provide opportunity for secure investment funding and access to significant, high quality assets - enabling organisations to become more robust and sustainable;
  • provide a source of investment for community projects throughout conception, development and delivery;
  • offer a mixture of finance combining grants and loans, so organisations can access the type of funding that is right for them.

8. The wider package of support for the third sector includes:

  • consultation launched today on proposals for a £7.5m Empowerment Fund to support third sector organisations to empower communities across England;
  • consultation on a revitalised and enhanced Communities and Local Government Third Sector Partnership Board to be at the core of the department's future strategic engagement with the third sector.
  • Additional proposals on an Asset Transfer Unit to accelerate community ownership and management of assets and a Take Part local pathfinder programme.

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