'Big Society' fund of £3m gives just £169k to charities
A £3m county council fund to encourage the development of new
community-based enterprises is being questioned after it emerged
that just three organisations have been given loans.
Kent County Council launched its “Big Society” fund last January
as one of its major policy initiatives, aimed at supporting
so-called social enterprises.
Under the scheme, loans and some grants are awarded to
businesses, charities and voluntary groups on the basis money made
is reinvested back into the community.
But there has been criticism of the interest rate charged on
loans, which can be between 12% and 15%.
The council acknowledged this week that take-up was slower than
expected and it was rephasing some of the money earmarked.
Loans have been offered to just three organisations, while a
further six are weighing up offers. Together, the loans either
accepted or offered total just 168,500.
Cllr Mike Hill (Con), cabinet member for communities, said: “The
Big Society is a three-year plan to which KCC has allocated £1m
The launch of the Kent
Big Society Fund by Blair Gulland, trustee of Kent Community
Foundation, left, with Mike Hill, KCC cabinet member
"The take-up during the first year of the scheme has been slow,
but it appears this is in line with the national trend.
"For this reason we thought it was worth rephasing the money. It
is a new area of business that will undoubtedly take time to
Companies and other organisations like charities can apply for
loans of between £10,000 and £100,000 so long as there is evidence
that their plans will benefit Kent residents.
parties say the county council should re-think the scheme and
consider scrapping it.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean said: “My concern has
always been that the interest rates were too high.
"I can’t see any reason why anyone would choose the fund above a
bank. I also am not convinced that people want loans instead of
"If it is not working and we have the money just sitting there,
then we do need to look at it.”
Labour spokesman Cllr Les Christie, who sits on the KCC panel
that considers applications, said: “In the current uncertain
climate, I think organisations are asking themselves whether it is
worth the risk taking the money.
"To be honest, I think we are struggling to find people who want
loans. From the evidence, I am not convinced this is the best use
of KCC money - there are other organisations who could make better
use of it.”
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