Positive Community Response to Cuts

We should fight unfair cuts where we can. And if we lose, it should spur us on to getting even better facilities and services for our neighbourhoods through our own common endeavour. Looks at new takes on old approaches.

Fighting

ChesterRoadSchoolCrossingGorse Hill residents have successfully made the case for saving the crossing patrol on Chester Road. That's brilliant news and congratulations to all involved! 

We can’t disguise the fact that most patrols identified for withdrawal are still being withdrawn, including the dangerous one at Barton Road/Moss Vale Road junction; and Trafford’s Budget has still been approved by Tories and Lib Dems, as it was always going to be.

Glimmers of Hope – Alternatives out of the Ashes

Work goes on to try to save something out of Lostock's Library and Youth Club together with Gorse Hill Studios. either through drawing in outside support or income generation from services provided there. And at the same time, a community enterprise is emerging from the council’s disposal of Stretford Public Hall. So, here and there are glimmers of hope that not everything is lost.

One thing that has been lost is the hope that one day, all our citizens would have access to youth clubs, libraries, even new parks.

that is, unless we make it happen ourselves!

No time to wait for change 

All over the country communities are coming to the realisation that things we want for our neighbourhoods are only going to happen if communities come together to make it happen. Whoever wins in the May elections, the debate will not be about expanding the state's role in public services. And once we realise this, the question becomes about how we are going to deliver it, if the council isn't going to. This is where it gets interesting, and something is stirring.

Raising the Funds

The search is on for alternative funding models based largely outside local authority funding. 

Grant Providers

Much of the focus is on grant giving organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery, Sports England; or local grant providers such as Trafford Housing Trust. However, it’s a competitive market and it’s unlikely that all projects will be able to get the funds they need from grant providers.

big lottery

Heritage

Sport England

Sport Englan

Advantages of Grant Funding

  • Some Big Chunks of Money
  • Additional Non Financial support from funder
  • Small number of lead members required to write bid
  • Bid process brings focus on outcomes

Criticisms

  • Focus on what's bad about a neighbourhood rather than what's good
  • Less focus on widespread support or local accountability
  • The Funders' agenda becomes as important as the Local Agenda 

Town / Parish Councils – locally accountable
… but only if we hold them to it

A potential source of local funding is the Town/Parish Council model. All three main parties have dallied with these at national level. The advantage to the community is that they can if they choose, levy a precept for money to be spent  in the community. The precept is in effect an extra amount of council tax. The trouble is there’s no real evidence they really are accountable. Elections happen rarely and there’s plenty to suggest that the BBC drama, The Casual Vacancy underplays the levels of conspiracy and chicanery often encountered. We have a few Parsih Councils in Trafford with mixed support from residents at best. Perhaps ours are too small and since Stretford had its own full District Council until relatively recently (1974), it should not be dismissed out of hand. It's never been easier to set them up, but if the sole purpose is to locally raise cash, there may be better ways.

Making it easier to set up a town council

Advantages 

  • In theory – democratically accountable
  • If a Council Tax Precept is levied, everyone pays
  • Provides a voice for the Town

Criticisms

  • Tendency towards cliques
  • Elections rarely contested
  • Focus on narrow agenda

Cutting out the Council
…..and going for it yourselves!

Is Crowdfunding an answer?

The new kid on the block for local funding is crowdsourcing. It’s best when you’re appealing for a fixed cost rather than ongoing. It’s come of age with the internet, though it could be argued that its roots go much further back. In fact many of Greater Manchester’s parks were financed in this way and even New York’s Statue of Liberty.

There are so many sites supporting crowdfunding: SpaceHive is perhaps the most focussed on local/community projects. 

The advantage to the person pledging the funds is that, you don't pay anything unless the project reaches its target. Why would you want to donate to something that will never happen?

Manchester has partnered with SpaceHive to create the #MakeManchester partnership. At the time of writing, they've raised £335,337 in pledges towards the £369,000 target needed to save the Grade II listed Ancoats Dispensary and turn it into a community hub. That's fantastic, and I would urge everyone reading this to pledge a couple of quid. In addition to the Dispensary, #MakeManchester is supporting a host of other projects including a Youth Market.

Even closer to home is our own Stretford Public Hall who too are seeking much needed donations to move to the next stage to in reopening the hall as exciting vibrant resource. They need and deserve everyone's support. Please make a donation here.

Advantages

  • Inclusive, gives ownership to the whole community
  • Tests whether community really want project
  • Helps attract matched funding

Criticisms

  • Huge publicity and promotion input
  • Favours populist projects as against perhaps a worthy minority need
  • Uncertainty prior to target being reached

Public Subscription – The Return of an old Favourite

A variation on crowdsourcing is public subscription. This is where people voluntarily make an ongoing financial donation often through a membership scheme. Whilst there are many examples, and a classic one would be the National Trust whereby members pay an annual subscription and receive reduced prices and news, the method has not really taken on in local community projects. This might be about to change.

A community group in Sheffield is proposing asking regular users for a voluntary £10 a year subscription to help pay for running costs of its park. And I’ve been particularly struck by the practicality at the core of this American blog on using wider community membership as a key fundraising and inclusion tool. If the organisation had charitable status, they’d probably be able to claim gift-aid from the subscriptions. With the best will in the world, you’re never going to get everybody to contribute but the pay-off is a far greater sense of ownership than you’d get with a town council precept for example. It would be far easier to get additional grant funding if subscription funding was already in place.

Advantages

  • Inclusive, gives ownership to whole community
  • (with charitable status) Brings additional 25% Gift Aid
  • Helps attract matched funding

Criticisms

  • Huge year on year fundraising effort
  • Long lead-in times before you have a critical mass of members.

Conclusion

There will be some who say we shouldn’t be getting involved, it’s for the state to provide these services; we’re doing the Tory dirty work for them. I disagree. In fact I’d say some of this goes back to the roots of socialism and the Friendly Societies, Trades Unions and Guilds from which emerged the Labour Party. There’s real opportunities for today’s Trade Unions as well as businesses to get themselves involved.

The limited services the council provided never served more than a fraction of the people they should have. There are plenty of dangerous crossings that have never seen a school crossing patrol and two youth centres were never going to satisfy the whole of Stretford. As for libraries, they really could be on the street corner if enough people want them to be.

Think about you want in your neighbourhood, and make it happen!

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