In spring 2020, Kirklees Council more than doubled the funding that ward councillors have available to support local projects in their area. Through this extra £30,000 of funding per ward, councillors are able to support the groups, projects and volunteers who are such a vital part of the community response to Covid-19. We’re sharing some stories from different wards, so you can see how councillors are using these funds in our local places.
The relationships councillors have with people in their communities, and their local knowledge, continues to be an important part of helping citizens in our local places respond to Covid-19.
Like many local groups and organisations, volunteers from St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Liversedge realised that if they were going to set up a project to help their community, they were going to have to act fast to get it off the ground before lockdown happened. Their aim was to be ready to provide food boxes to vulnerable people across parts of North Kirklees.
Administered by Wesley Playhouse Ltd (as part of the Howden Clough Methodist Church in Birstall) the project quickly brought together representatives of other churches in North Kirklees, who together made a plan for the food box network.
Caroline Holt, one of the lead organisers, explained how the project came about and what they’ve achieved by working together with other partners. Funding from local councillors has been important in supporting their work.
“I was approached by a local ward councillor, Cllr Lisa Holmes. She has a really good knowledge of the communities and knew that through the network of churches something could happen. Churches covering the North Kirklees circuit quickly became part of the project.
“Getting funding to run a project under normal circumstances isn’t always easy. The bureaucracy involved can really hold things up. Cllr Holmes explained local ward councillors had been given extra funding so they could tackle issues more quickly. This allowed us to focus on getting the project up and running with minimal time wasted on form filling.
“We were keen to do things properly though, so made sure we consulted with parishioners on what they thought would be more useful to go in food boxes. From this we were able to work out the likely costs and let the councillors know how much funding we thought we’d need.
“We wrote a business plan to give ourselves some structure and an ability to demonstrate our approach. The councillors from Liversedge and Gomersal ward and Mirfield ward initially gave us £5,000 between them. They offered reassurance too though, that if the numbers of people requiring our help increased, they would support us with additional funding.
“The trust they showed in us to deliver a project like this was really important. We would have done something to support our communities anyway, but the time taken to do this would have been time lost when people really needed our help.”
As well as the benefit of having a good relationship with the councillors, Caroline also told us about the importance of managing the project properly and the support from other parts of the community.
“We knew it was important we reached the right people, so relied in part on referrals from the Covid-19 Community Response phone line set up by Kirklees Council. In this way, we knew the referrals we were getting were from people in need and were at a level of need we could definitely help with. We had so many people come forward to volunteer that we couldn’t even use all of them. This shows how brilliant the community response has been.
“Some people gave up their time every day, such as Liz and Richard Sands, along with Mav Morse who manned the phone line. We’re also hugely grateful to Steve Dawson of Tesco and Wendy Clough of Morrisons supermarkets, whose local branches gave us donations of food, meaning the funding we did have could go a lot further. It probably doubled the length of the project.
“In all, throughout the lockdown, we’ve helped over 200 households and continue to help some. We’ll keep helping them until we know they’re no longer vulnerable, but will also encourage them to take back their independence as time goes by.
“The success of the project and the benefits to our communities shows why it’s good for groups to have a good relationship with your local councillors. The councillors took the initiative in approaching us, trusted that we could help and gave us the funding to deliver something much needed in our communities at the time.”
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