LCT Respond to Member CommentsPost in Community Benefit Fund by Carol Smith
Feedback to Member Comments
On behalf of the LCT board I would like to thank you for the comments which were discussed by the directors at a recent Zoom meeting. LCT is always keen to hear from its members and the wider community so if you have any further comments or suggestions please let me know. These can be passed to the directors, anonymously if preferred.
The recent comments and responses are as below:
COMMUNITY COMMENTS – JUNE 2020
1. Should UM be the Chair of the LCT whilst also chair of the Hall trustees ( receiving funding), chair of the war memorial group and also a Director of the GDDC, also in receipt of regular funding? Is this ethically and morally right and should the charities commission be made aware of this?
LCT has an established process, as defined in the Articles of Association, for the election of directors and UM was duly elected by the LCT members to be a Director. Following the recent resignation of the previous Chair UM was elected as the new Chair by the other LCT directors.
In a small community it is inevitable that directors may volunteer in more than organisation. All directors must declare a personal interest and conflict of interest in any project or discussion that they are involved in and are not allowed to participate in the discussion or outcome. This is in line with the recommendation from OSCR and also reiterated by Alpin Stewart of Munro and Noble in the LCT Board meeting of 7th November 2019.
2. According to the LCT website, the local school has had over £50,000 of funding with another £11,000 + agreed over the next 2 years. With the number of pupils currently at 9, 2 children due to move to the academy after the summer, August intake? and sadly due to the Garve hotel closure another 2 children will be leaving - can this level of funding be justified for so few? Is the Highland Council getting away with not adequately funding the school as no need, as LCT will give them whatever they ask for?
LCT has a clearly defined application review and scoring process. All of the applications for the school have followed this process and the grant has been awarded in line with this. LCT is governed by the community agreements which do not allow it to provide funding for anything that should be paid for by Highland Council. All of the grant funding that has been provided has been for resources and trips that the school/parents has to fund itself and not from Highland Council.
The annual grant, approved in principle last year for the next 3 years, will be reviewed this August, taking into consideration the expenditure for the current academic year and the forecast for the next year. The value of funding is not allocated on a per pupil ratio.
3. The LCT has spent a great deal of our funds on feasibility studies, questionnaires etc.. What has been the tangible benefit of this to our community? Is it not the consultancy firms who are the true winners here, taking money from us that could have been put to better use?
The applications that have been approved by LCT for the feasibility studies have been approved in line with the LCT grant process and the community development plan – a plan which was agreed by the community and community stakeholders during 2019.
4. The energy group have spent a fortune on studying energy generation in our community, all of which have been concluded non- viable. Why do we now have to pay an energy officer, at yet more expense, to further pursue a lost cause? Home energy reports etc. are also available free of charge so there is no need to pay someone to arrange them.
This question was passed to the Garve and District Community Energy Group for comment:
The members of the Community Energy Group are all volunteers. As a group, we spend a considerable amount of time and effort resourcing information and materials to achieve the goals required for sustainable energy and a safe environmental future to benefit our community. We’ve sent out surveys to the community to help us gauge if, how and where they want us to focus our efforts. The Energy Group has taken on the annual Energy Grant scheme, general house insulation improvement scheme, efficient lighting scheme and also the community power generation scheme. We have engaged several local and government agencies in pursuit of improving the welfare, energy efficiency and environmental aspects of the community. As individuals, we feel we have taken these schemes as far as we are able due to time constraints in our everyday lives and technical know-how. In order for the project to continue effectively, we needed to have the support of a funded Energy Officer.
In response to the comment from one individual regarding the Community Energy Officer we would refer the complainant to a clarification of the energy officer’s role posted on Garve.org in April this year in response a question from a G&DDC member. This explained that
The Energy Officer role has not been created or funded using LCT (community) funds, but by the Scottish Government’s Investing in Community Fund. The fund enables communities to develop the resources and resilience to decide their own aspirations, priorities and solutions.
The ‘Match funding’ secured from community (LCT) funds earlier this year, have and will not be called upon until the Energy Officers Work identifies specific ‘projects’ which have the potential to show a financial return to the community and or are of ‘direct benefit’ to individual households and the wider community as a whole.
These ‘projects’ specify and include home and community renewable energy systems, transport and other objectives that the community energy group have been working to develop and progress within our community since it formed in May 2015. It has been this work (and the ‘feasibility study reports) which has greatly contributed to our ability to attract the ICF and future ‘external’ funding opportunities.
Whilst Home Energy Reports are indeed available and ‘free’ to arrange, both we (the Energy Group), the Highland Council and Scottish Government, have found that the process of turning completed reports into viable projects and installations, is a daunting task for many householders, not least in committing monies to bridge any gap between the grants or government loans that they may be eligible to apply for.
The Home Energy Reports are not readily available to the group due to data protection laws. The energy officer’s exclusive role is to review the reports, identify the most needy in terms of energy improvement (both in terms of environment and financial) in our community and make the households aware of government grants, loans etc, to undertake these improvements.
The ‘externally funded’ Energy Officers role is therefore able to
Support our communities householders through this process (including applying for government grants/loans)
Explore and develop proposals as to how LCT funding might be used to bridge any funding gaps that might otherwise deter the householder from securing a ‘warmer’, more energy efficient and cost effective home.
Investigate and assess options for Community owned Renewable Energy
Investigate and assess options for sustainable Community Transport
It is not clear where the conclusive notion of non-viable power generation has emanated, but we can assure the community that there are viable options being investigated. These studies require specialist input and hence there is cost.
5. If UM cannot get involved with a lot of funding applications due to his conflicts of interest, is his not a wasted post? Would it not be better to appoint someone more independent, unbiased and not connected to local groups etc.?
UM was elected as a director by the LCT Members and where there is conflict of interest does not participate in the discussion or vote on any pertaining issue.
However, taking on board this comment UM has decided to resign from his role as a Director of the Garve and District Development Company, Chair and Trustee of Garve Public Hall and as the Chair and Trustee of the Garve War Memorial Trust to concentrate on his role as a Director and Chair of LCT.
6. A LOT of money is going to the GDDC - what have we actually got to show for such high expenditure in our community?
This question has been passed to TGDDC for comment as below:
TGDDC are in the middle of producing the Community Development Plan Annual Review and it is hoped this will be issued within the next couple of weeks fully detailing work which has taken place over the past 12 months. A brief summary is detailed below;
As of April 2020, TG&DDC has attracted £338,784 into the community: -
TG&DDC: LCT £231.934 External Funders £16,377
For Other Groups: LCT £84,973 External Funders £5,500
Of this 26% on average 13% each year, over 2 years has been used for TG&DDC overheads and staff.
We also have a further £35,849 from external funders secured until April 2022.
Overview of Achievements (lots more will be detailed in the Community Development Plan’s Annual Review)
The Garve & District Development Company
Full-time Community Engagement and Development Officer post (3 days used 18/19, 4 days used 19/to date).
Company Secretary (1 day per week)
Garve.org – on-line community hub (Phase 1 and Phase 2)
Community and stakeholder engagement resulting in Garve & District’s Community Development Plan
Kids Activities Project
Support to Garve Public Hall, Achnasheen Amenities Group, Strathgarve Parent Council, Garve & District Community Energy Group, Garve & District Community Events Group in attracting funding for the following projects:-
Garve Public Hall Remedial Works
Garve Public Hall Energy Efficiency Report
Garve Public Hall Redevelopment – Professional Fees
2 x Christmas Parties for Garve & District Residents
Strathgarve Parent Council – Together We Succeed
Development of specification, procurement and implementation of the Community Assets Feasibility Study.
Activate Garve & District Project
Green for Go Community Energy Project
Covid19 Supporting our Community Grant
Covid19 Community Food Hub
Covid19 Volunteer Register
Note: The COVID19 Community Support Grant is available to all residents of the Garve and District community and 151 household grants were applied for, representing a total of £75,500 in direct support distributed to those living in the area within 6 weeks of the COVID19 lockdown announcement. The Covid19 Community Food Hub put in place a hot meals delivery service and arrangements for order and delivery of grocery boxes.
In conclusion, as detailed in the Community Development Plan Annual Review, over the past 12 months work as taken place in every Strategic Theme identified by community – Community Ownership; Community Energy; Utilities; Community Care; Community Groups and Events; and Business and Tourism. This resulted in the completion of 50 workstreams/projects with a further 37 have started and currently on-going.
7. The Garve Hotel has now closed and is for sale. The land at the back of the hall has therefore more chance of becoming available. Does this call for a Hall project rethink? A new hall was ruled out as there was no-where to build one but maybe there now is, or maybe a far larger, elaborate extension? Would be a ridiculous waste if the community
managed to acquire this land and simply used it for parking!
Due to the sale of the Garve Hotel and the ownership of the adjoining land, the hall refurbishment has currently been put on hold whilst the various options are being considered.
8. There have been various community events that have involved catering and on each occasion one local resident gets the business - is this not the LCT personally funding someone's business / profits?
As part of its grant review process LCT asks applicants to provide quotes from more than one company, where appropriate. It is for the application organization to decide and detail any external costs. The options for catering for community events is limited in Garve but alternative catering organisations have also been successful in providing catering for local events. The recent Yoga Open Day was catered by the Garve Hotel.
Ongoing Out of the Blue catering will no longer be quoting for community events.
LCT does not pay any funds to any businesses directly and will only pay the grant direct to the applicant.
9. The Garve.org website was set up with great intentions, but just like the Fraser Ross blog of the past it has simply become a vehicle for back stabbing, insults and abuse! If our community could be less divided, bitter, more neighbourly and appreciative of others efforts our community would be a far better place to live, with or without wind farmfunds!
LCT is keen to ensure that the communication with its members and the wider community is as open and transparent as possible.
The garve.org website is one of a variety of communication methods that is used by LCT, including its own LCT website, LCT Facebook page and direct communication with members via email and post.
LCT is committed to working with its members, community groups and the wider community to make Garve and district a great place to live, work and socialise in. We welcome any ideas our members have to bring our very dispersed community together, working in unison for the benefit of all.