Falkirk's £3m pot for community projects - and your say in where it goes

If you have an idea for a project to enhance your community, Falkirk Council has a £3 million pot of cash that could help make it a reality.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 9th February 2021, 1:53 pm

The money must be spent on local projects, voted for by local people in each of the council wards, over the next two years.

The new Community Choices initiative, which officially launched this week is Falkirk's answer to the Scottish Government's desire for more community input into how money is spent in local areas.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council said: “Community Choices gives communities across the Falkirk Council area greater power to decide how money is spent in their local areas on projects and initiatives that matter most to them."

Falkirk has £3m to invest in its Community Choices initiative

Nationally, it's known as participatory budgeting but Falkirk has chosen the more user-friendly 'community choices', which they believe says it all.

Jen Kerr, Falkirk Council's service manager for communities, said: "The best thing about our community choices programme is that the ideas come from the community and the decision on which one is the most valuable comes from the community."

Proposals could come from one of the many groups already working hard in their local areas - but they can also be submitted by individuals or friends who have a great idea they think might just work.

There are two pots of money available: one offering small grants of up to £1500 to spend on activities, the other giving capital grants of up to £10,000 for bigger projects that involve improving buildings or buying equipment.

Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council

A minimum of £10,000 will be available to each of Falkirk Council’s nine wards in the first year as part of the small grants programme.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that more people than ever have become involved in their communities - and that is something the council wants to build on.

Whether that's checking on a neighbour or organising a food pantry, the response to the pandemic has shown that there are many people who really care about what happens in their neighbourhood.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: "We've seen so much resilience in our communities as a result of the community response to Covid that we want to be able to harness that.

"Communities know what they need best and they also know where those who are most vulnerable are, in particular those who are most disengaged from statutory services."

But even the best of ideas might need some guidance and advice and Jen Kerr wants to reassure people that they will be fully supported in their plans.

A panel - including people from each council ward - will help to ensure that all of the projects meet the criteria before they are put forward to the public vote.

Any individuals or groups who would like to take their idea forward should submit an expression of interest by Friday, March 5.

After that they will be asked to submit a more detailed application online at www.falkirk.gov.uk/communitychoices before April 9.

The public will then vote on which of the projects should receive public funding.

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