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Social Infrastructure Fund cabinet paper

Decision making report title: Social Infrastructure Fund

Date of meeting: 13 January 2020

Responsible Cabinet Member: Cllr Andrew Proctor, Leader of Norfolk County Council, Cllr Andrew Jamieson, Cabinet Member for Finance

Responsible Director: Simon George

Is this a key decision? Yes

Executive Summary

Norfolk County Council receives many requests to invest in projects that benefit the community. As we seek to do more work with communities through business transformation to improve resilience of communities it is increasingly important we support the development of infrastructure which benefits local groups and voluntary sector organisations. To better deal with these requests, secure benefits for Norfolk residents, and to formalise an auditable approval process for the projects the Council supports, it is proposed to set up a capital social infrastructure fund with an annual budget of £1 million. This paper sets out how the council will manage this fund and proposes criteria for eligibility and expenditure.

Recommendations

  • Approve earmarking £1 million in the annual capital budget starting in 2020/21 for a social infrastructure fund
  • Approve the proposed internal management arrangements set out in the paper
  • Approve the proposed criteria and rules for a social infrastructure fund set out in the appendices
  • Invite officers to develop the detailed application processes, paperwork and timetables

1.1. In May 2019 Norfolk County Council approved its new ambitious 6 year plan Together, For Norfolk, setting out the priorities for the Council in the period 2019-2025. The plan states the outcomes the council wants to achieve are a growing economy, thriving people and strong communities. Part of this is the council’s desire to strengthen community capacity so that people are more socially active and more connected to their communities and where community groups and voluntary organisations are able to deliver services which people need in their community.

1.2. The Council also has received a number of requests to support community projects. We have recently invested £500,000 in the development of community sports facilities through the Community Sports Foundation at the Nest, and £500,000 in the Nook; a new children’s palliative care facility in Framlingham.

1.3. Now the Council would like to formalise this process and to help develop community capacity by establishing a £1 million capital only Social Infrastructure Fund.

2.1. Voluntary community and social enterprise (VCSE) groups would be eligible to apply for funding from the Social Infrastructure Fund. Groups would need to be properly constituted and have a bank account in the name of their organisation.

2.2. Grants funding will be awarded to groups wishing to invest in new facilities that are open to the whole community (groups with restricted memberships will not be eligible). Grants will be between £100,000 and £500,000 to ensure they have sizeable impact on communities.

2.3. Norfolk County Council would publish a “call for projects” from voluntary and community groups at the start of each financial year. In this way the council would be able to specify any particular requirements it may have in each call, and direct the funding to areas where gaps in provision or community need have been identified, if it wanted. Respondents would then have to show how their proposal met both the call requirements and the general criteria of the funding.

2.4. At least one call will be held per year. There might be scope to hold further calls depending on the allocation of funding and whether e.g. the funding was aligned to other funders. Funding that it is not allocated in one year would be rolled over into the next.

2.5. It is proposed that rules governing the fund will be relatively light touch to enable wide engagement, whilst still providing audit assurance to the Council that the funds are being properly used. Organisations will not need to demonstrate match funding, for example, but may use Norfolk County Council grants to match other funding streams if required.

2.6. It is proposed that the fund should be managed within Finance and Commercial Services. Audit oversight would be provided by Norfolk Audit Services and would be done on the basis of randomly sampling a small percentage of monitoring and claims work. It should be borne in mind that both teams usually charge fees for undertaking this type of work. A Social Infrastructure Fund Board would be set up to both provide strategic leadership of the calls process, identifying areas for investment, and making funding decisions (delegated from Cabinet) on receipt of appraisal summaries of submitted projects.

2.7. A draft application form and guidance are attached, as well as a draft appraisal form. Advice will be provided to organisations on how to draft their applications at workshops when a call for funding is published.

2.8. Once applications are received officers will undertake appraisals of applications and provide one-page summaries of each project and funding recommendations to the Social Infrastructure Board.

2.9. Key milestones in the management of the fund would be:

  • Meeting of Social Infrastructure Board to agree call for projects
  • Call for projects issued
  • Deadline for applications
  • Appraisals of projects completed
  • Social Infrastructure Board meet to make funding decisions and to agree future calls, and consider any risks and mitigating actions relating to the fund
  • Grant offer letters issued to successful applicants and rejection letters sent to unsuccessful ones
  • Monitoring reports submitted and reviewed
  • Project closure reports submitted and reviewed

2.10. Each year a selection of work undertaken through this fund would be assured by internal audit, who would report back to the Social Infrastructure Board.

2.11. The make up of the Social Infrastructure Board would include at least:

  • Andrew Proctor, Leader
  • Andrew Jamieson, Cabinet Member for Finance

2.12. Terms and conditions for funding and detailed requirements for monitoring of both spend and outcomes will be set out in the grant offer letter.

2.13. Reports on the investments made under this fund will be made to Cabinet annually.

3.1. The proposals in this report will enable the Council to deliver the priorities in Together, for Norfolk and support aspects of business transformation which are reliant on developing stronger and more resilient communities.

4.1. Setting up a Social Infrastructure Fund is considered to be the most effective way of supporting community and voluntary sector groups in a clear, auditable and transparent way.

5.1. The Council could continue to support requests for funding from community and voluntary sectors groups in an ad hoc way, as it has done in the past. However, this is more difficult to accommodate from a budget perspective as investments are unplanned. In addition, the existence of the fund will encourage VCSE and other groups to invest in their infrastructure which in turn will reinforce the resilience of the community.

6.1. Approving the proposals would add an extra line into the Council’s capital budget and would require the allocation of £1m per annum starting in 2020/21.

The impact on future year’s revenue budgets will depend on the nature of the project. Based on recent Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) borrowing rates and typical asset lives, the cost to future revenue budgets of using £1m will be approximately £0.060m pa. Borrowing costs are included within the minimum revenue provision (MRP) budget in the medium-term financial strategy (MTFS).

7.1. Staff: Some resource would need to be dedicated to managing the fund, appraising projects and managing payments. It is envisaged that this work will be minimal and can be managed through existing capacity.

7.2. Property: None

7.3. IT: None

8.1. Legal implications: None

8.2. Human rights implications: None

8.3. Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) (this must be included): None

8.4. Health and Safety implications (where appropriate): None

8.5. Sustainability implications (where appropriate): None

8.6. Any other implications: None

9.1. Officers will consider risks associated with each application, raising these with proposed mitigation on an exception basis with the Social Infrastructure Board. Likely risks to be considered are set out in the table below:

Risk: Applicant is not an eligible organisation with credible track record of delivery

Mitigation: NCC will undertake due diligence checks on the organisation

Supporting documentation:

  • Application form
  • Most recent accounts
  • Copy of constitution
  • Bank account details
  • Receipts to be submitted with claim

 

Risk: Applicant submits fraudulent claim for expenditure

Mitigation: Evidence of capital spend required

Supporting documentation:

  • Authorised officer sign off
  • Evidence of claim checks by NCC

 

Risk: Applicant does not allow funded facilities to be used by any part of community

Mitigation: Eligibility criteria and fund guidance will make this explicit

Supporting documentation:

  • Guidance
  • Condition of grant offer letter
  • Monitoring visit

 

Risk: Revenue funding streams are insufficient to sustain the capital grant investment

Mitigation: The sources and sustainability of the revenue funding will be explored at application stage

Supporting documentation:

  • Application form
  • Most recent accounts
  • Evidence of revenue match funding source and amount (e.g. grant offer letter if applicable)

9.2. In addition, at each meeting of the Social Infrastructure Board, officers will provide a risk register for the fund as a whole.

10.1. Not applicable

11.1.
  • Approve earmarking £1 million in the annual capital budget starting in 2020/21 for a social infrastructure fund
  • Approve the proposed internal management arrangements set out in the paper
  • Approve the proposed criteria and rules for a social infrastructure fund set out in the appendices
  • Invite officers to develop the detailed application processes, paperwork and timetables

12.1. Not applicable

If you have any questions about matters contained in this paper, please get in touch with:

Officer name: Jane Locke

Tel no.: 01603 223 035

Email address: jane.locke@norfolk.gov.uk

If you need this report in large print, audio, braille, alternative format or in a different language please contact 0344 800 8020 or 0344 800 8011 (textphone) and we will do our best to help.

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