To receive a presentation from Cr. Gareth Lyon, Cabinet Member for Concessions and Community Support, on current work within the portfolio and priorities for the future (areas to be covered attached).
The Panel welcomed the Cabinet Member for Concessions and Community Support, Cr. Gareth Lyon, who attended the meeting to give an update on current work within the portfolio and priorities for the future. Items covered were as follows:
· Future review/extension of the local ward grant scheme - It was noted that in September 2016 each Ward had been allocated £500 from the Community Grants Fund. The three Ward Councillors could use the £500 to support local good causes in their Wards. It was reported that all the money had been allocated for 2016/17.
The Community Grants Fund contained £21,000 and for 2017/18 Cr. Lyon was proposing that each Ward should be allocated £1,000, the remaining balance in the fund would be available to Cr. Lyon to allocate as required across the Borough.
All Members would be consulted on this increase in funding to each ward.
The Panel ENDORSED the increase.
· Volunteers Week/”Get Involved” Fair – The Panel noted that Cr. Lyon had been working with officers and Rushmoor Voluntary Services to arrange a “Get Involved” Fair on 3rd June, 2017 in Aldershot town centre. Invites had been sent to all voluntary organisations in the Borough informing them of the event and requesting interest in participating. Organisations would be encouraged to join with other similar groups, for example, scouting groups would be placed together on one stall. Stalls would be free of charge and the event would run from 10a.m. – 3p.m. on Union and Wellington Street. Promotion would be managed through the Communications team.
· The Good Causes Lottery - The Panel was updated on progress with the Good Causes Lottery. It was noted that the application for the gambling licence was being processed and it was hoped that it would be launched around the same time as Volunteers Week. It was reported that, so far, 30 groups had signed up to be beneficiaries of the lottery and it was hoped that there would be around 60 by the launch date.
· Promoting elections and electoral registration – The Panel discussed the issues around maintaining the numbers of residents registered on the electoral roll and accessing hard to reach groups to encourage electoral registration.
It was advised that young people were a particularly hard group to reach and it was important to ensure this demographic understood the importance of democracy and its effects on the community.
A discussion was also held on online voting. It was advised that online voting could not be instigated at a local level, but Members should continue to lobby central government for change.
It was proposed that an update would be given at a future meeting of the Panel on the Review of Electoral Services, which was currently taking place.
· Organisations seeking rent/rate relief – there were three elements to rent and rate relief support initiative:
− Discretionary – this relief will be granted at the discretion of the Council, historically the football clubs had received discretionary relief
− Hardship – if a business was failing, relief could be granted for a short period of time
− Enterprise – if a business was looking to move out of the Borough or set up elsewhere, the Council had the power to reduce their business rates for a period of time as an incentive to set up/remain in the Borough
The Panel noted that charities received 80% relief from central government and the remaining 20% was generally picked up by the local authority. It was advised that smaller charities received the full 20%, although larger charities would need to provide financial data and may not receive the full 20% from the local authority.
· Other ways of working with voluntary organisations/community groups – Cr. Lyon advised that the voluntary sector provided good value for money within the Borough, for every £1 there was a return in services to the value of £8-12. However, consideration needed to be given to better ways of working with the Council and sharing best practice across the voluntary sector, particularly those in similar fields. It was advised that a survey would be carried out after the May, 2017 elections to establish what charities/voluntary organisations had and what they would be willing to share with others. The Panel would be consulted on the data returned from the survey.
Consideration would also be given to Community Engagement /Neighbourhood Involvement, to build capacity within communities. A Community Forum was proposed for the Autumn of 2017 at which communities would be brought together to establish the requirement/needs of their community, get people talking and build bridges.
Action to be taken
To provide an update on the current Review of Electoral Services.
Andrew Colver – Head of Democratic and Customer Services