Funding pot provides £515,000 of vital support to community projects

Published: Tuesday, 16th January 2018

Community groups in Stoke-on-Trent have been given more than half a million pounds to help improve their local area thanks to a new cash pot.

A total of 29 organisations have benefitted from Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Community Investment Fund (CIF), which was launched in June 2017 to help them bring their ideas to life.

Following the success of the first round, which saw a total of £515,000 being awarded, a second wave of applications has been launched, with £2.5 million left to be handed out between now and 2020.

Projects from the first round included renovating community facilities, creating a floating classroom on a narrowboat for canal heritage education sessions, buying musical instruments, and transforming an empty shop into a community hub. Funding was also given to projects and groups offering cultural events and activities, as part of the legacy of Stoke-on-Trent’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid. 

The money is intended to be used on equipment or physical improvements to buildings, rather than paying for staff or running costs.

Through the CIF, the city council has pledged £3 million over three years to support community groups, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises and voluntary groups.

For the second round, grants between £500 and £50,000 are available, with applications needing to meet a range of criteria and demonstrating how they have an impact on:

  • supporting families to fulfil their potential
  • creating thriving places and communities
  • creating strong communities, where people live their lives well

Councillor Abi Brown, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and partnerships, said: “We’re committed to helping our communities to thrive by giving them the tools they need for success in the future; this scheme is key to that. 

“The Community Investment Fund was launched last year as part of our Stronger Together strategic vision to create a city we can all be proud of. Building strong communities is essential to the success of this vision and this money will help to do that.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from a wide range of groups from right across the city; from small requests to pay for machinery maintenance to full building renovation projects. The CIF will help community groups to deliver real changes that will make a huge difference to people’s lives.”

The 29 successful schemes are based across the city including Tunstall, Stoke and Hanley, as well as communities in Hartshill, Penkhull, Etruria, Cobridge, Shelton, Benitlee and Fegg Hayes.

Groups in Fenton have been particularly successful in securing funding, with over £93,000 being given to the town. 

One successful recipient is Barnicles; a small independent café and one of the 30 small businesses based in Fenton Town Hall which are working to restore the building and bring it back into community use. 

They were awarded £47,000 to help refurbish the kitchen, main entrance area and stairwell, and create a balcony and bar area in order to host more events and activities at the venue.

Nichola Twemlow, director of Barnicles at Baker and Co Café said: “We’re so pleased to have received funding; it will go a long way to improving facilities at this community hub. The town hall means so much to the local community and this investment means a lot to everyone who’s campaigned for the building over the years. Fenton has a great community and we are privileged to be a part of it.”

Another successful applicant is The Hub in Fenton; a vibrant learning centre based in a former church hall in Christchurch Street, which has been given £13,600. The centre provides a range of activities designed to help people become more confident, independent and less socially isolated.

Centre manager Carole Kind said: "The CIF grant from the city council really is a dream come true! Many of our visitors are older people who feel the cold. Despite having an excellent central heating system we’ve really struggled to heat the building because of its age and lack of roof insulation. The money’s enabled us to install a suspended ceiling, providing a warmer and more comfortable environment where the local community can meet and join in a range of social activities."

Temple Street Methodist Church, which sits in the heart of Fenton, was awarded £32,550 to help refurbish the centre’s kitchen and washroom facilities. They offer a winter night shelter, providing 12 beds, hot meals and toiletries to the homeless, as well as a Foodbank, Community Café and Messy Church children’s craft activities.

Glenn Parkes, church steward said: “This money is a vital source of funding; for the homeless, we will offer a warm and safe place for them to come where they can be fed, sleep, wash and freshen up. We also want to help community cohesion within the town by creating the space and opportunity for people of all ages to come together.”

Penkhull Village Brass is a community brass band that started in March 2015 and now has 18 players performing at concerts across the city. They were awarded more than £13,500 to buy new musical instruments they will use to help relaunch their training band later this month.

Glynn Lewis, band manager, said: “We bring together people of all backgrounds and ages - from 9 to 78 - to play music and socialise together. As well as perform, we also teach people how to play brass instruments through our training band, which we are re-launching on January 23.  The money means we can provide instruments to people who want to learn and join in but who would otherwise not be able to afford. For older people who live alone, the band brings new friendships and helps combat loneliness.”

Councillor Randolph Conteh, cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “There have been some fantastic ideas to come forward as part of the first round. We believe this investment can help people to grow and thrive, encouraging them to take pride in their community and improving the city as a whole.”

“This funding gives the city’s hard-working community groups some extra support to get their projects off the ground and help them make a real difference to the lives of people in Stoke-on-Trent. I would encourage everyone to think about how they could do things differently and help to create a stronger city. 

“Also if a group wasn’t successful the first time around, we can work with them to develop their applications to put in a second bid that’s more likely to be approved. Just because a project wasn’t accepted at first, there may be ways we can help to ensure it meets the funding criteria.”

Groups applying for larger projects need to speak with the city council’s Local Matters team before applying to make sure they fit in with local planning and conservation regulations.

Applications for the second round close on March 29, 2018.  

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