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Voluntary services’ futures assured with £2.4m grants extension

08 February 2022 : Council news

Existing council grant funding for Somerset’s voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector will be extended over the first year of the new unitary authority in Somerset.

Members of the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) Joint Committee voted unanimously to protect VCSE funding worth £2.4m for 2023-2024 (year one of the new Somerset Council).

Making the decision, the LGR Joint Committee, which includes the leaders of the five existing councils in Somerset and four Somerset County Councillors, recognised the need to provide stability for VCSE groups delivering vital services to communities.

Chair of the Joint Committee and Leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr David Fothergill, said: “Somerset set has a particularly strong voluntary and community sector providing much-valued services to people across the county. We want to give them the financial stability to continue making a difference to people’s lives.

“Voluntary groups are perfectly placed to identify and support people most in need and must be our priority. That’s why, we’re taking this extraordinary step to set this first part of the new Council’s budget now.”

Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee and Leader of South Somerset District Council, Cllr Val Keitch, said: “It’s essential we continue to build and nurture strong working relationships with our voluntary and community groups.

"These organisations are critical partners in both the delivery of the new Somerset Council, and in realising its potential.

“It is for the new Somerset Council to decide its policy and funding priorities, but for now we believe a common interim approach is what’s needed here.”

Katherine Nolan, Chief Executive of Spark Somerset, said: “We recognise this is an exceptionally positive move and appreciate the special measures that have been taken here to reassure the sector.

“Somerset is so lucky to have such a strong and vibrant VCSE sector. Distinctive and diverse, local VCSE groups are often a crucial point of stability within communities, providing vital support for people in need.

"This decision enables our sector to have more certainty about our immediate future, helps support our planning, and allows us to get on with the most important job – identifying the needs of our communities and supporting them to live the lives they want to lead.”

In addition to the continuation funding decision, the Joint Committee agreed that they would seek to align VCSE funding sources across all five councils during the run-up to 1 April 2023 (Vesting Day).

However, individual councils will continue to have their own specific arrangements for additional services provided by the voluntary sector.

For the latest information about the new unitary Somerset Council, visit: newsomersetcouncil.org.uk/