PROPOSALS to increase community budgets in order to boost local economic recovery and support projects go before councillors next week.

Durham County Council’s Cabinet is to receive a series of recommendations including an increase to the Neighbourhood Budgets available to all 126 elected members, with each proposed to be given a one-off allocation of £10,000 to support the revitalisation of towns and villages.

The council’s 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) have supported thousands of projects across the county and brought in millions of pounds of match funding over the years. In addition they have provided essential support to community groups and volunteers during the difficult last 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic.

The meeting will be told of proposals to change how £4.2 million awarded to the AAPs through the council’s Towns and Villages programme for 2021/22 is allocated. This will include all 126 elected councillors receiving an additional one-off allocation of £10,000 in addition to their £19,400 Neighbourhood Budget to support projects that enhance the vibrancy of communities in their wards.

Cabinet will also hear of proposals to simplify the process community groups go through to apply for financial support, to encourage more to apply. The council’s Joint Administration is also seeking to draw upon ward councillors’ contacts and knowledge of the projects in their areas, and through the changes being proposed, ensure grants are distributed fairly.

The meeting will also be told of some of the uses financial support can be put to this year. The AAPs have been given £525,000 for the delivery of Holiday Activities with Healthy

Food and have begun work to allocate this in their communities. Furthermore, a £300,000 Countywide Community Recovery Fund is also available across the 14 AAP areas and will be opening to applications in due course.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are really pleased to be bringing forward proposals which would mean more money being available via Neighbourhood Budgets to boost economic recovery at local level.

“This will meet our aims of improving towns and villages across County Durham and we are looking forward to supporting many valuable community projects such as those which provide healthy food for our children and young people and those which help with Covid recovery.

“We are keen that as many community groups benefit from this funding as possible and that is why we are trying to simplify the application process. We would encourage these groups to find out more about the kind of support that is available.”

Information about financial support available through the AAPs can be found at http://www.durham.gov.uk/communityfunding

Cabinet will meet at 9.30am on Wednesday, 16 June in the Council Chamber at County Hall.

Due to social distancing requirements spaces for members of the public are very limited and anyone interested in attending in person must register in advance by emailing Democraticservices@durham.gov.uk

The meeting will be broadcast live online at https://www.youtube.com/user/DurhamCouncil and members of the public are being encouraged to follow the proceedings this way.