Thursday 6 December 2012

Obstacle to Funding Removed

My lobbying of officers and the Labour administration in the days before Monday's Cabinet meeting paid off.  Just before the meeting kicked off the wording was changed, thereby removing an obstacle in the recommended action that would have damaged the chances of winning £380,000 of grant funding. 

Robin Bentham, chairman of the Warren & District Residents' Association (WADRA) sat next to me waiting to hear the report on Mapledurham Pavilion, the last on the evening's agenda.  For once the Kennet Room was warm, but as is so often the case there were hardly any local residents in the audience.

In order to maximise the likelihood of winning these monies Reading Borough Council needs to apply for planning permission to rebuild Mapledurham Pavilion.  However a caveat in the published report that this could only be done subject to "significant progress to closing the funding gap" threatened to undermine the bid.  Why was this so important?  Because it was totally unrealistic to expect WADRA's fund raising group to make "significant" progress in raising £200,000 in the 4 or 5 weeks it will take to prepare a formal grant submission. 

I was absolutely delighted the administration heeded my request and effectively neutered the caveat by deleting the word "significant" and said as much in my speech.  Also I commented that it is an extremely exciting time as we are closer than ever before to the possibility of realising a replacement Pavilion.

Another important action agreed was the approval of the use of Virgin Money Giving so donations will be eligible for Gift Aid, ie the tax is reclaimed.  This means for example a £10 donation will be worth an extra £2.15.  The Cabinet members were the only people eligible to agree this because of their role as Trustees of the Mapledurham Playing Fields Charitable Trust. 

The months and months it has taken to achieve this have been exceedingly frustrating because we - the fundraisers - have missed out on claiming back the tax on donations made to date.  However at least it will give a huge boost to future fund raising and hopefully will help encourage people to give larger donations to bring us closer to our target.

WADRA has done a superb job mobilising the local community to fund raise with over £22,000 collected in the last year or so, of which Sunday's Christmas Fayre raised £380 profit and the recent metal recycling a hefty £840.

The local architect, who is donating his time to develop and draw up the plans for free, currently estimates the build to be £690,000.  RBC officers state an additional 10-15% should be budgeted for fees and other charges. 

The Labour administration has reiterated the pledge originally committed by the Conservative-led local Coalition two years ago of £100,000 Section 106 monies .  A further £75,000 has been raised or promised, which leaves a funding gap of £200,000 as long as the £380,000 is secured from the Football Foundation's grant pot.

The next important date is Monday 11th December as officers and are will be meeting with the Football Foundation to try and progress the Council's initial letter of interest in applying for grant funding.  Thanks to the force of the caveat having been deleted, I am substantially more positive about the possible outcome.