I've been keeping this under my hat for over a month but it was announced this morning that £1 million ‘Big Local’ funding will be coming to Whitley from the National Lottery.
The money – to be spread over the next 10 years – will allow the Whitley community to identify the priorities which matter to them and take action to improve the lives of local residents.
I am over the moon about this. When I met with representatives of the Lottery in the Autumn they explained that the way this scheme is designed, it allows local people to look at their own area and decide where the money is be best spent and where it will have the biggest impact for the local community. I believe this will to bring local residents together, make the best use of skills in the neighbourhood and made a lasting difference to Whitley. It's also a vote of confidence in the area as the lottery are looking for areas that can make the best use of the funding and have the capacity to make it go a long way.
It can be used on anything from starting up social enterprises and addressing unemployment, to tackling other local issues or providing more activities and services for people locally.
I am hoping personally that one of the things that it goes towards is a community cafe or hub that can be used by voluntary groups, adult social organisations and individuals. I also think things that promote skills and employment for residents would be great. But ultimately it's not down to me - it's for local people to determine!
The funding for Whitley comes from the ‘Big Local’ programme, funded through a £200m Big Lottery Fund investment and managed by Local Trust. ‘Big Local’ is helping 150 small urban and rural communities across England to make their areas even better places to live. Each ‘Big Local’ area will receive at least £1m Lottery funding to spend over the next 10 years. More information on Big Local is available at www.localtrust.org.uk.
The scheme in Whitley will be completely resident-led which means residents themselves will decide how it is best spent on project and services that they feel will have the biggest impact on their local community. As part of the programme, residents will receive training and support to help them identify priorities and develop a plan for their area.
Reading Borough Council will act as facilitators, to help bring local residents and voluntary sector groups together to plan for how and what the funding will be spent on. You can be sure that your local councillors will also take a lot of interest!