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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Telling it how it is!

As we fight for the funding to continue our current range of activities, this is the question, and the background information, which our Chair - Sylvia Hamilton - recently presented to the Cabinet of Sheffield City Council.

Given our current funding gap, does the Council see community organisations like the Darnall and Tinsley Forums playing a key role in the development of community assemblies and continuing to be key players in the economic regeneration of priority neighbourhoods such as Darnall and Tinsley?

Background Information for Cabinet Members

The Darnall Forum Board has Somali, Pakistani and White members and is majority BME.

Some of the trustees have worked for ten years to get this point.

We have carried out a community consultation, drawn up a community action plan and developed a robust business plan for future sustainability.

For the last two years we have employed a team of seven people, funded by ERDF and the Single Pot.

During that time they have made a real impact on Darnall

More than 840 local residents have received information and advice
More than 275 residents have been helped to get jobs
More than 250 have received informal training
More than 100 have accessed e-learning at our centre
More than 80 new volunteers have been recruited
More than 25 community groups have been supported

This means that Darnall Forum has out-performed all of its targets for economic regeneration.

The team has been working with us to find secure ways of sustaining the project in the future.

These are largely dependent on social enterprise, at which they already have some expertise.

They have already secured £230,000 of grants plus contracts worth £240,000 over the next 3 years.

Our expenditure over the same period will be around £935,000, if we continue to work at our current capacity.

We are already halfway to securing the total income we need, and we expect more contracts and commissions to be awarded to us in the coming months.

The Council has, in principle, agreed with Yorkshire Forward a programme of contracts and commissions ring-fenced for services that will be delivered by voluntary and community sector organisations in the City’s “priority” wards.

Darnall neighbourhood comes out No. 1 in the Sheffield Neighbourhood Information System when seven measures of disadvantage are averaged across the City.

Yorkshire Forward has already made an offer to the City Council to allow flexibility of additional resources for Darnall Forum, (letter from Thea Stein to John Mothersole, 2/07/08).

Council officers know already, from past performance and the new contracts already secured, that we are almost certain to emerge as the right people to deliver the work that is needed in Darnall.

We have a professionally managed, highly competent and experienced team in place to deliver the work.

We know the local community and are trusted by it.

As things stand, we do not need to borrow any actual funds from the City Council.

We are for the time being in a position to lend money to the City Council, instead!

However, because we are a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, we do not have the freedom to use our reserves in this way without firm guarantees in writing from the Council that contracts will eventually be awarded to us and back-dated.

This means that any money which we continue spending now would need to be treated as if it were a loan from the Council.

If the Council does NOT feel able to help us, you will need to ask yourselves:

How will the Council fill the gap left behind when our services are cut back?

Will it cost you more money in the longterm to put in place a team of people with a similar level of competence and experience?

Will there be any volunteers left in Darnall who are prepared to help and support you?

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