Over half a million pounds of grants announced by Winchester City Council

Many of Winchester’s Community Groups, Voluntary Organisations, Charities and the ‘Arts’ are all set to benefit after the City Council announces more than £500,000 of community grants.

Despite the need to find efficiencies and savings to balance the council’s budget in a very difficult economic climate, Winchester City Council has still been able to find more than half a million pounds of funding for local groups which should have a really positive impact for residents of all ages across the district. Around £400,000 of the funding will be shared by the councils 5 key clients - Winchester Area Community Action, the Trinity Centre, the Hatfair Management Company and the Citizens Advice Bureaus in Winchester and Bishops Waltham.

On top of this another 28 groups are also in line to receive grants ranging from £1,000 to £25,000 to help them provide vital services for the wider Winchester community. These include the Carroll Youth Centre, Age Concern, MENCAP, the Winchester Nightshelter, Winchester Young Carers and Homestart groups both in the city and Meon Valley. There is also grant aid for the counselling and mediation services provided by Winchester Youth Counselling, the Olive Branch and Relate, and support for ‘the arts’ where among others Bishops Waltham Festival, The Winchester Festival, Winchester Rural Theatre and the Tower Arts Centre programme will all get cash injections.

Announcing the 2009/10 community grant awards Councillor John Cooper, Deputy Leader of the Council and Winchester’s Portfolio Holder for Communities & Safety said, "I am delighted that we are able to channel more than half a million pounds back into the community in this way. Every group the council supports is doing really important work on behalf of our residents. By any measure this is a really significant amount of financial help and we work hard to ensure we cover a wide range of needs and interests".

"All of the groups we have previously supported have been given a new grant for 2009/10 and we are pleased we have been able to add one more to this long list by linking up with Curdridge Parish Council and the YMCA to deliver much needed youth work in one of our small rural communities".

Jenny Meadows, Bureau Manager, Winchester Citizens Advice Bureau said, "we are delighted that once again our work with the community and particularly the most vulnerable has been recognised by the council at this difficult economic period, which has seen our employment enquiries more than double. Alongside Bishops Waltham CAB we are the only free advice agency in the district."

Jean Hammerton Chairman of Bishops Waltham and the Meon Valley CAB said, "We are pleased to receive the £42,463 Winchester City Council Grant for 2009/10. Rural areas which include government designated deprived communities are particularly affected in times of economic stringency. As expected enquiries regarding employment, debt and housing are increasing. It is, therefore, most fortunate that the bureau has moved into new premises with the support of Winchester City Council. A Winchester City Council officer is now available on a Wednesday to help with housing or benefits and for Customer Services on a Thursday. We believe that sharing premises will improve the services both the CAB and Council provide to our clients."

Jane Jessop, Chairman Winchester & District Mencap Society commented "This is really good news! Blue Apple Theatre is the only fully inclusive theatre company in Winchester which welcomes people with disabilities. We believe taking part in theatre is not only fun and improves physical and mental well-being, but can build skills and confidence amongst learning disabled adults which will enable them to access work, independent living and local social facilities. We have a very long waiting list for joining BlueApple Theatre so we are really grateful for WCC funding which will enable us to bring all the benefits of taking part in theatre to more Winchester residents with learning disabilities and help equip them better for life in our wider community."

Other grants announced today include ‘one off’ capital grants which will help to maintain and improve community infrastructure. Councillor Cooper added, "Local facilities are the hubs around which social inclusion in small communities revolves. Some buildings are getting on in years and we need to make sure that they are well equipped, have proper disabled access and are as energy efficient as possible for the future. Several groups and interests are going to benefit from these capital grants which will help them meet project costs".

The small East Stratton community near Micheldever will receive £10,000 (the final instalment of a £60,000 grant) to help foot the bill for a new community building. In Cheriton a £5,000 award will help pay for upgraded toilet facilities and improved disabled access at the village hall. Alresford gets two grants totalling £5,600 to carry out refurbishment work at the Grade II listed community centre and restoration at the historic Eel House which will be opened to the public. In Winchester The Lido in Worthy Lane will benefit from a £5,400 grant for replacement windows to improve energy efficiency and smarten up the building’s appearance. Also, in line with council’s policy to improve social and economic wellbeing through support for ‘the arts’ an initial £30,000 grant has been earmarked for the Chesil Theatre expansion plans.

In addition to these grants a further £11,000 has been set aside to provide further support for the Citizens Advice Bureaus in Winchester and Bishop Waltham to meet a likely increase in the need for debt counselling services over the coming year as a result of the current financial climate.