NICVA Hosts Information Session on Delivery of the UK Community Renewal Fund in NI

21 May 2021 Kathy Maguire    Last updated: 27 May 2021

On the 17th May NICVA hosted an information session for voluntary and community sector organisations on the recently launched UK Community Renewal Fund and how delivery of the fund shall operate in Northern Ireland.

At this event we were joined by Tony Bray from the UK Governments Cities and Local Growth Unit, a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) which is responsible for implementation and delivery of the Fund.

Tony provided a brief  overview of the UK Community Renewal Fund and its priorities, outlined how delivery shall operate in NI and also took questions from attendees questions regarding the fund. You can view a recording of this event further below.

List of Questions and Answers from the Event

Tony also took a range of questions from attendee’s regarding the UK Community Renewal Fund and related funding programmes. These questions and his responses are summarised below.

Q. Does this Funding qualify as ‘State Aid’ (under the protocol etc)

A. State Aid does apply- but is up to organisations to appraise if projects do count as state aid. If projects are for community benefit, ie: not conferring particular advantage on any particular commercial company or affecting competition or trading, then is unlikely will be considered ‘state aid’. However, projects/organisations will need to take a view on this, use own judgement regarding on application and this would then be considered in the department’s appraisal of individual applications.

Q.Is the Levelling up fund for 1 year, must expenditure be spent by 31 March 2022 for capital projects?

A.The Levelling Up Fund is for more than one year but yes there does have to be spend in this first financial year of programme – so if projects are of a larger size, more complex etc , organisations may wish to wait to apply in a future funding round. There will be further rounds – so if programmes are still under development, they may wish to wait and apply then. Those wishing to apply for projects in this financial year of Fund , would need to have these ‘ready to go’ , to ensure spend within timeframe.

Q. In terms of the UK Community Renewal Fund, can you define what is considered a ‘project’, would research or a feasibility type study be eligible for funding – for example a partnership project involving a community organisation and local and central government partners exploring ‘new ways of working or approaches to a local issue’ – would this type of initiative typically be considered?

A.Yes, such projects would be considered appropriate to apply – for example a feasibility study exploring or testing approaches to inform a longer-term project which you then may wish to apply for funding for under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. What organisations/partners would need to do in such an application, is to very clearly outline and define the issue(s) you trying to tackle, including why is so important to the local community/place on which it is focused, the current barriers to addressing and the potential future interventions you wishing to explore/scope of the study. A process evaluation would also need to be included as part of any such project – as such projects would not typically deliver immediate impact, you would need to able on completion/delivery be able to detail/explain the longer-term benefits of the approach that was taken and the opportunities that might arise from this etc.

Q. Can you explain more about the Capacity Building funding for local communities that might be available?

A. Capacity Building funding is to be available under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is yet to be announced, this is likely to be announced sometime later this year or early next, so unfortunately, I can’t provide any more detail on this at this time.

Q. In terms of the UK Community Renewal Fund’s four areas for priority funding- Investment in skills, Investment for local business, Investment in communities and place and Supporting people into employment is the funding available under each theme equally split across the total budget?

A. No, is there is no predetermined amount available under each theme or funding split between the themes at this point – it is essentially about the quality of applicant projects, the impact they looking to make and the ‘challenge’ they looking to address. Whilst is likely that Government in looking to have a composite list of projects across the four nations, ie: there would be a desire to have a spread of projects across the four themes, there is no particular minimum or maximum number we aiming to have under each of the themes, the focus at this time is on the quality of and potential for impact of projects.

Q. Is there a minimum amount of funding for which applicants/project can apply for?

A. No, we had flagged in the Guidance that projects should be around the £500,000 mark but realistically we understand that in the timeframe for delivery and in the context of Northern Ireland that is going to be beyond the scope of most organisations wishing to apply. This was particularly aimed at the Local Authority context/approach to funding delivery that will be operate in the other parts of the UK – where local authorities are leading on bids. There is no minimum amount for which projects can apply/bid , but smaller scale projects are going to have to be able to demonstrate impact alongside ‘value for money’, so just need to be conscious of this.

Q. You have explained that the funding split for any project is likely to be 90 % revenue, 10% capital – in terms of IT or software costs linked to projects could these be deemed as revenue costs or would it be looked upon as capital cost.

A. My understanding is that software for example would not be considered a capital cost but that IT costs/equipment may likely be. It is dependent on individual organisations own accounting procedures, ie: how organisations account for capital and revenue costs internally. You can therefore apply as relevant to your own project/organisation.

Q. The suggestion from the written Guidance is that projects need to be in the region of £500K. Given the short timeframe for delivery of the Community Renewal Fund, would projects who cannot achieve this spend also be considered. (Written Question from Chat)

A. Just to reaffirm there is no minimum amount for which projects can apply and we would fully appreciate and anticipate that community organisations would likely submit smaller scale projects – there is no predetermined minimum amount that they need to be applying for. We recognise that for this sector a minimum £500 k project is quite a large/substantive project to be delivered within what might be a 7 – 8 month maximum delivery period

Q. In terms of the link between the UK Community Renewal Fund and the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund, is it essential that if an organisation where planning to bid under the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in the future, they would have to have had successfully delivered a pilot project under the Community Renewal Fund, in first instance.

A. No, there is going to be no expectation that organisations will have had to have delivered a pilot project under the UK Community Renewal Fund in order to be eligible to apply to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This is an entirely separate funding scheme, though Government will inevitably be looking to create some opportunities for learning in advance of the roll out of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Q. In terms of the UK Community Renewal Fund, what are governments expectation with regards to this pilot programme, I assume Government will want to demonstrate impact and benefits of pilot, despite the extremely short time frame that projects are being asked to deliver within and challenges that this presents.

A. Quite clearly this is going to be a limited delivery period and therefore will be some challenges for projects in demonstrating impact within this short time frame, but we think there will be learning from looking at how different approaches have worked. Projects should be encouraged to capture or evaluate how approaches working in practice, how has the ‘process’ of delivery worked. For eg; participants/service users experiences of the process, in comparison to other similar but differently funded initiatives – what elements at the point of evaluation seem to be working well or better – how engaged where participants, capturing metrics (attendance, measuring real time improvements etc.

Q. If voluntary and community projects in NI where successful in securing funding under the UK Community Renewal Fund, how would funding be ‘drawn down’ or allocated- is this retrospective or can projects receive some funding in advance. We are aware that in NI, allocation of the funding is different, in that funding is direct to organisation, unlike in the rest of UK where the funding is to be allocated by local authorities – just mindful of the financial capacity of any voluntary and community organisations in NI – unlikely have access to  significant/ large funds in advance of payment .

A. I imagine we would work with the successful project in terms of the funding profile and reflective of their circumstances put in place appropriate financial arrangements for eg this might be a lump sum in advance. However, I will take this particular query away and try to get further clarity etc regarding and report back to NICVA with any further information.

Q. Could the UK Community Renewal Fund be used as match funding for current European Social Fund (ESF) projects, delivered within this financial year.

A. Yes, it  can. We are however liberal in terms of the requirements around match funding – its not essential that a community and voluntary organisation brings match funding to a potential project.  

View the recording from this Event:

 


About the UK Community Renewal Fund

The UK Government launched this £220 million fund in end March 2021 which it says will help places across the UK prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The Government say the fund will support communities across the UK in 2021-22 to pilot programmes and new approaches as the government moves away from the EU Structural Funds model and towards the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Funding will be allocated competitively.

Investment priorities for the fund have been identified as:

  • Investment in skills
  • Investment for local business
  • Investment in communities and place
  • Supporting people into employment

The government say that in order to nurture innovative thinking and offer flexibility, projects may align with one, or deliver across several, of the investment priorities. There will be no ringfences applied across these themes. 90% of funding available through the UK Community Renewal Fund is revenue funding.

Delivery in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has received £11 million of this funding and unlike other parts of the UK, where the fund will be managed by lead authorities/councils, in Northern Ireland the UK government is taking a different approach, which it says takes account of our different local government landscape. In Northern Ireland the fund will be managed centrally by the UK Government.

All areas in Northern Ireland are eligible for funding and applicants will apply directly to the UK government via the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Bids will be accepted from a range of local applicants, including,  but not limited to universities, voluntary and community sector organisations, and umbrella business groups. By treating Northern Ireland as one geographical area the government say this will ensure all communities have equal access to apply for the Fund.

The fund is currently open for applications in NI.

Bids should be submitted by applicants to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by noon on Friday 18th June 2021 by emailing  [email protected].

Bids received after the deadline will not be considered. The UK Government says it will confirm which projects will receive funding from late July 2021 onwards.

Further Information

For more information about the Fund, it’s priorities, and how to apply, visit :https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-community-renewal-fund-prospectus

You can also view Frequently Asked Questions about the fund here: UK Community Renewal Fund: frequently asked questions - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

kathy.maguire@nicva.org's picture
by Kathy Maguire

Policy Development Officer

[email protected]

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