Francis Maude: Many good causes in the community

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Most weeks I receive in my postbag or inbox a report on projects in my constituency which have come about by highly targeted and often locally based funding.

Last week, for example, I had a list of some 36 projects which have been awarded Heritage Lottery funding, ranging from well over a quarter of a million pounds down to £35.38.

It is a great measure of the vibrancy of the Big Society that these projects are so diverse and interesting. As you would expect, many of them are awarded to the buildings (often places of worship) which form such an important part of our heritage, but I am delighted to see smaller amounts being given to preserve our archive of memories.

As well as the commemorative events surrounding the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 this autumn, this year also sees the 60th anniversary of the events which led to the end of WW2. Our children must now be learning about these from elderly grandparents or great grandparents, so it is especially relevant that they are still able to hear at first hand about the experience of living through this part of our history. Many of the smaller Lottery awards are supporting just such events, reunions and exhibitions.

I have also learned in the last few days that West Sussex County Council awarded grants to a number of small businesses here in Horsham through their Be the Business scheme last year. This is available through match funding to businesses wishing to consolidate or expand, and it can be vital in securing and increasing jobs here. A further half million pounds is already allocated for this coming financial year.

I was then alerted to the Lloyds Bank Community Fund (www.lloydsbank.com/communityfund) which opened recently. Members of the public can now nominate worthy causes to be invited to apply, and the merit of some 1,400 of them nationally will be put to a public vote in September and October. This is the first year that the wider public can join in the nominations along with customers and staff, and I very much hope to see local projects appearing in the shortlist. The deadline for nominations is 30th April.

A new cycle of the Safer in Sussex Community Fund also begins this month, with awards being made to support local initiatives for keeping our communities safe. It is run by the Police Commissioner’s office, and can be found on www.sussex-pcc.gov.uk/safer-in-sussex-community-fund.

I hope you will be as encouraged as I am that local residents are really engaging with their communities. Localism in some areas of life is still in a transitional phase, but it is the case that more and more grassroots involvement is properly influencing local outcomes, and not just through the ballot box.

There are plenty of myths surrounding the difficulties of staging events and the amount of red tape which gets in the way, so government has published new, clear advice about this on www.gov.uk/government/publications/can-do-guide-for-orgaisers-of-voluntary-events which aims to bust many of those myths.

We are a nation of doers, and as you will have heard me say many times, I applaud any initiatives which trust people to make their own decisions about how their lives run best.