North Norfolk District Council’s Big Society Fund on course for April 2 launch

A new Big Society Fund, its pockets bulging with �1.169m, is on course to open its shutters for business on April 2, handing out grants to community projects.

The North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) scheme, funded by second homes council tax, will have an annual budget of about �675,000.

But the launch kitty will be boosted by nearly �500,000 left in the pot from the current financial year.

The council's ruling Conservative administration hopes voluntary and community groups, charities, town and parish councils will be among those applying for cash.

Eligible projects will include play equipment, support groups, lunch clubs for the elderly, Christmas lights, 'in bloom'schemes and start-up costs for new community activities.

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Under the previous Liberal Democrat administration, second homes council tax was used to fund the district's seven Local Area Partnerships (LAPs).

Trevor Ivory, NNDC cabinet member for Localism and the Big Society, told yesterday's overview and scrutiny committee that LAPs could apply to the fund for cash for specific projects.

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But it would not be used to pay continuing costs for areas like administration, staff wages, overheads and infrastructure.

Mr Ivory added: 'We want to encourage social responsibility. That doesn't happen if what you do is pay people to provide on-going support.

'You have to encourage volunteers who get involved with projects, rather than just providing a top-down funding system. Bidders would have to prove that their scheme had community support and would 'strengthen and grow the social fabric of the community.' Cash has also been set aside to help projects achieve their goals and become sustainable, with help from organisations like Voluntary Norfolk and the Norfolk Rural Community Council.

A politically-balanced grants panel of councillors would decide on applications up to �5,000. Larger bids would be considered by the cabinet, which is expected to give the initiative its final blessing on Monday.

The grant scheme would be administered by the Norfolk Community Foundation at an annual cost of about �27,000.

The fund is set to be approved by the full council either this month or next.

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