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Greater Manchester Scrutiny Pool 10 February 2012

by timpickstone on 11 February, 2012

Yesterday was the regular meeting of the AGMA/GMCA* Scrutiny Pool. (* Association of Greater Manchester Authorities, Greater Manchester Combined Authority). This brings together three councillors from each of the 10 districts in Greater Manchester. This year I’m one of two “Co-Chairs” of the pool, and yesterday was my turn to chair the meeting.

There were two important issues on the agenda:

Whole Place Community Budgets
Greater Manchester has been selected by the Government as one of only four pilot areas for Whole Place Community Budgets. This is where an area is going to work to see whether thinking more smartly on how different agencies spend public money can (a) improve what is achieved, and (b) save money.

The focus is on what are called by Government “troubled families” and the sort of agencies that would be involved include: councils, health, police, benefits, criminal justice system, job centres, housing, etc etc.

This is a hugely important opportunity for Greater Manchester, which could potentially really improve people’s lives. The pool asked to be kept up to date on how the project develops. There was a presentation which I’ll link to when its available.

Section 48 Grants Scheme Review
One of the most hotly debated topics that has come to the pool for some time was the review of the AGMA Section 48 Grants Scheme. This is a large grants scheme for the voluntary sector which operates across Greater Manchester of c £3.7 million a year. The scheme has been going for 27 years, so review is probably overdue.

Scrutiny were asked to review the process, and make any comments, before a final decision on the Grants being made by the AGMA Executive in 2 weeks time.

The criteria for the grants is changed significantly by the review:
– 50% of the weighting is now for promoting Greater Manchester and creating the conditions to attract investment, visitors and talent to the area
– 30% to improve the skills and employability of people in Greater Manchester
– 20% on inclusive communities.

In addition AGMA has set up a small Social Impact Fund £100,000 a year to provide grants to groups that are making a social impact.

The impact of these changes has been that a number of larger arts organisations have scored more highly than some organisations that are currently funded by the scheme who work more in the area of social welfare. Of the 18 organisations proposed for funding, 16 are ‘arts’, 1 sport and 1 social welfare. The arts organisations include a lot of theatres (Lowry, Halle, Coliseaum, Octagon, Royal Exchange and Contact).

The Panel had a number of concerns with the process and asked for the following comments to be made back to the AGMA Executive (this is my memory, the minutes will give the correct wording):

– urging the Executive to think again about cutting back the big grants by a small amount (e.g. 5%) to allow for more organisations to be supported (people call this ‘salami slicing’)
– urging the Executive to think about allocating more than £100,000 for social welfare and social impact
– asking the Executive to think about three issues, perhaps when this is done in the future:
—- the impact of grant losses on further monies lost (i.e. grants that are dependent on the AGMA grant)
—- the capacity of smaller organisations to be able to apply
—- the decommissioning costs of withdrawing grants.

The papers for the meeting are here, which include a full list of the organisations which the AGMA Executive is minded to fund, and those which would be unsuccessful.

Any questions please ask. Tim

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