The NSW Government has announced the creation of new, stronger councils across the state to work harder for residents and deliver better services and community facilities. It’s the most significant change to local government in NSW for more than 100 years.
The creation of new councils will free up funds for important projects like local roads, parks, playgrounds and footpaths. The Stronger Communities Fund has been established by the NSW Government so councils can kick-start these projects by providing up to $15 million for each new council to spend on priority community initiatives.
Local community groups will be able to apply for community grants of up to $50,000. Projects may include upgrades of club facilities, funding of sporting equipment, or providing tools and equipment to improve the delivery of community services.
At the heart of the NSW Government’s decision to create new councils was a commitment to creating stronger communities for local residents.
As part of this commitment, the Stronger Communities Fund will allow local residents, community groups and new councils to work together to deliver infrastructure and services that will make a real and lasting difference to the lives our local communities.
Purpose of the Stronger Communities Fund
The Stronger Communities Fund has been established by the NSW Government to provide councils with funding to kick start the delivery of projects that improve community infrastructure and services.
The NSW Government will provide funds to new councils following their commencement, which will enable councils to start consulting with communities and investing in projects.
To ensure that the Stronger Communities Fund is allocated to projects that are prioritised using an open and transparent process, the NSW Government will require councils to apply high governance standards to the decision making process. This will include the appointment of a Stronger Communities Fund Assessment Panel that includes an independent probity adviser.
Stronger Communities funding will be available to new councils created as part of the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future reform program.
- Funding of $10 million is provided to a new council formed as a result of two councils, or parts of two councils, merging.
- Funding of $15 million is provided to a new council formed as a result of three or more councils, or parts of three or more councils, merging.
Funds will be provided to councils after commencement.
How the Stronger Communities Fund can be spent?
New councils are to consult with their community to allocate and deliver the Stronger Communities Fund through two programs:
- Community grant program, allocating up to $1 million in grants of up to $50,000 to incorporated not-for-profit community groups, for projects that build more vibrant, sustainable and inclusive local communities.
- Major projects program, allocating all remaing funding to larger scale priority infrastructure and services projects that deliver long term economic and social benefits to communities.
Following consultation with the community, councils are able to increase the funding delivered through the community grants program by allocating funds from the major projects program. This can enable additional rounds of the community grants program to be run in subsequent years.
Any surplus funds from the separate New Council Implementation Fund can be invested through the Stronger Communities Fund in either program.
Criteria for selecting projects
Councils will be required to ensure that the community and local stakeholders are adequately consulted and provided with the opportunity to put forward ideas for funding.
Community Grants Program criteria
Councils are to provide grants to incorporated not-for-profit community groups for projects identified and assessed using an open call for applications.
To be successful for funding, community projects must meet the following criteria:
- deliver social, cultural, economic or environmental benefits to local communities
- address an identified community priority
- be well defined with a clear budget
- demonstrate that any ongoing or recurrent costs of the project can be met by the community group once grant funding has been expensed
- the organisation must demonstrate the capacity to manage funds and deliver the project.
Major Projects Program criteria
Councils are to fund projects that deliver new or improved infrastructure or services to the community.
Projects that are prioritised for funding must meet the following criteria:
- have been through a community consultation process
- demonstrate social and/or economic benefits to the community
- consider issues of sustainability and equity across the broader community
- demonstrate project feasibility and value for money, including full lifecycle costs
- did not have funds allocated by the former councils
- give consideration to the processes and procedures outlined in the capital expenditure review guidelines issued by the Office of Local Government.
How are the projects to be assessed?
Councils must establish a Stronger Communities Fund Assessment Panel with responsibility to assess projects and make recommendations to council for funding.
The Panel will assess and make recommendations for projects received through the community grant program as well as those developed and nominated by councils for funding under the major projects program.
The Panel will use the defined criteria for each program to assess and recommend projects for funding. The panel is to include:
- Administrator, or delegate
- State Member(s) of Parliament or representative
- Regional Coordinator of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, or delegate
- Other members, appointed by the Administrator, as required
- An independent probity adviser, appointed by the Administrator to advise the Panel on their deliberations and assessment process.
The Stronger Communities Fund is to be spent or committed by 30 June 2019 and all funding acquitted before 31 December 2019.
For further information please contact your new council.