***********************OPEN LETTER *************************
SPF DELAYS PUTTING BIRMINGHAM ORGANISATIONS AT RISK
We are a group of 10 cultural organisations that were awarded £390k of Shared Prosperity Funding by Birmingham City Council (BCC) through the Levelling Up Programme on 3rd July 2023.
Our cultural organisations, despite being small and micro, deliver a wide range of projects across the city and support some of the most disadvantaged people in our constituencies. We are highly valued in our communities.
By mid-July when Levelling Up funding had still not materialised, despite other councils across the UK being awarded theirs, we were told by BCC that we could proceed at our own risk, on the basis of a 99% certainty that the funds would come by the end of the month and were in no way mixed up in the ‘black hole’ used to describe city finances at that point.
Organisations acted in good faith on these odds and began projects, employing contractors, freelancers, engaging communities, working with partners, undertaking research, submitting planning permissions, buying materials and paying for staff time.
When funding was still not with BCC by the end of August serious concerns were mounting in our organisations. We attended a Birmingham City Council teams update meeting on 1st September and an in person meeting on 6th September to understand the projects and situation more widely and discuss the way forward.
We independently contacted the Levelling Up Department and were told on 31/8/2023 that the funding had been passed from Central Government to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). After a prolonged and uniformed wait on 29/9/23 we were told that the Section 151 officer had approved the funds but that it is still with legal and an extra layer of report writing has been imposed. Naturally this will cause further delay. We have not been given any idea of a timeframe on when and if the money will actually come through.
Every step of the way we have had to repeatedly ask what is happening and piece together ourselves what the issues may be by contacting the office for Levelling Up, WMCA and BCC Councillors, MP’s, BCC finance and legal teams, many of whom have not responded to our request for information.
The negative impact of the Levelling Up funds being delayed is that projects that should have been boosted have been standing closed, organisations are now in debt and relationships with the partners, contractors, landlords and communities have been damaged and staff are now suffering with anxiety. The funding which is meant to ‘level up’ is ‘levelling down’.
In her ‘Response to Section 114 Notice – Financial Recovery Plan’, delivered at the emergency council meeting of Monday 25 September, Chief Executive Officer Deborah Cadman outlined the criteria on which spending is now considered essential. Point 3.13 e. states : Fully funded by an external grant.
SPF funding clearly falls into this last category. Whilst we appreciate the enormity of the tasks currently facing the FCO, we can see no reason whatsoever why this full, external funding is being delayed, allowing ten key cultural organisations, many of which BCC has previously invested in for the benefit of our communities, to potentially go to the wall.
We would like clear and exact information and prompt delivery of funds so we as organisations may deliver our vital work and not continue to suffer economic hardship and damage to our reputations as a direct result of these awards.
While other departments and organisations also await funding across the city we believe we are the only organisations who are now at risk and suffering economically as a direct result of the delays.
We also think that as the funding is already 3 months late that an extension to the deadline in keeping with any delay should be granted to allow everyone awarded SPF funds to deliver high quality, sustainable and meaningful change in their communities.
We are grateful to the support of Cllr David Barker,Jess Phillips MP, Preet Gill MP, Cllr Sharon Thompson in this matter and hope other local politicians whose wards and constituency are directly affected by the SPF investment (or lack of) will join us in speaking up on the matter and ensuring these funds do arrive with the organisations awarded to deliver in a more timely manner. Our organisations contribute much to the city and their local areas, making many voluntary contributions and working hard to make a positive contribution to those they work with. These projects will make a real difference in terms of levelling up and need to start urgently.
Hannah Greenwood, Make It Sustainable Ltd, The Old Print Works, Hall Green constituency (Balsall Heath West Ward)
Karolina Korupczynska, Stryx, Ladywood constituency (Soho and Jewellery Quarter Ward, Bordesley Ward, Highgate Ward)
Elizabeth Jordan, Re. Future Collective, Edgbaston Constituency (North Edgbaston Ward, Ladywood Ward, Edgbaston Ward)
Ceri Townsend, The GAP Arts Project, Hall Green Constituency (Balsall Heath Ward)
Jayne Murray, Place Prospectors CIC, Selly Oak Constituency (Druids Heath & Monyhull Ward)
Dana Klampárová, Czech & Slovak Club UK CIC, Edgbaston Constituency (Harborne Ward)
Nicola Toms, Arts In The Yard CIO, Yardley Constituency (Yardley East and Yardley West & Stechford Wards)
Olalekan Babalola and Kate Luxmoore- developing the infrastructure of in and African Diaspora Cultural sensibility North of Birmingham.
The aims of the Levelling Up Programme are to:
- Reduce inequity
- Increase opportunity
- Increase living standards and wellbeing
- Enable people to live longer and more fulfilling lives
- Improve economic dynamism and increase growth
ART PAD: (young people 8-11yrs) – please register with us first. Please note that spaces are limited.
THE FORM OF CLOUDS: Arts based social prescription program, referral via GP’s/ Social Prescribing Workers or contact us for further info.
ART @ THE FOLLY: Arts mental health and wellbeing program for asylum seeking adults.