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Councillors call for release of tens of thousands in unspent community development cash

Hackney Town Hall.

Calls are being made by Hackney councillors for the release of a pot of unspent money earmarked for estate residents.

The community development fund (CDF), which was launched in April 2018, consists of a tenant levy of £110,000 per annum, and revenue from mobile phone masts installed on estates of £232,000 per annum.

However, as the grant is doled out on application by residents themselves, only just over half the money has been spent, and it remains unclear whether the Town Hall will be releasing the remaining funds.

It is understood that the CDF was brought in to replace a fund with narrower application criteria, with only registered tenants’ associations able to apply, with the more open arrangement targeted at tackling regular underspends in the previous grant.

In a letter to housing services boss Cllr Clayeon McKenzie (Lab, Hoxton West), Cllr Sharon Patrick (Lab, Kings Park) wrote: “A lack of applications […] means that our tenants and leaseholders have not benefited from as wide a range of social and cultural events as was possible.

“We agree […] on the need for full publicity of the fund, on making the application process as seamless and accessible as possible, and on providing proactive, positive support to those applying in all cases.

“I do see grounds for the service exploring the possibility of releasing unallocated funds at a given point of the year to enable direct delivery of activities by itself, and also to community and voluntary sector organisations for the delivery of events, targeted at our tenants and leaseholders.”

Cllr Patrick chairs the Living in Hackney scrutiny commission, which has recommended the Town Hall’s resident engagement team keep success measures around the number of applications of the CDF, and what outcomes it has achieved.

The prospect of the money sitting unspent had been called out by the scrutiny chair as a “terrible shame” back in July, given the context of the decrease in central government funding to Town Hall coffers by £140m since 2010.

In an 18 September response to the commission’s recommendations, Cllr McKenzie accepted the need to publicise the CDF more widely, with a review of the application process planned to make it as “seamless and accessible as possible”.

Cllr McKenzie added: “We will give consideration to the commission’s suggestion relating to releasing unallocated funds at year end to benefit the local community as part of our review of resident participation.

“However, it should be noted that Tenant Levy money must be allocated to initiatives and activities that directly benefit tenants.”

Residents and residents’ groups can apply for CDF funding for community development and engagement activities here.

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