Clare County Council is inviting applications from community groups to the 2017 Community Grants Scheme which was launched last week by Shannon Municipal District councillors. The €51,300 scheme aims to support community groups engaged in a wide range of cultural, artistic, heritage, sporting, educational and community work.

Launching the scheme, Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District, Cllr. John Crowe said, “This is the second such grants scheme for the Shannon Municipal District and I have no doubt that this one also will be taken up widely within the district by community organisations. The scheme is used mainly to encourage existing groups to develop and enhance their current activities, whilst also encouraging them to develop new and innovative ideas. It is now open for applications from community groups for projects and special initiatives they are undertaking in 2017,” he added.

This year Shannon Municipal District councillors have agreed to new eligibility criteria for those applying for the €51,300 Community Grants Scheme. A number of significant changes have been made and the scheme is no longer open to applications from individuals. In order to be considered for funding an application must be submitted from a community organisation. Public sector organisations, including schools, are no longer eligible for funding.

Applications for consideration must promote culture, local heritage and adult life-long learning education or generate civic pride and local community development. Multiple applications from any one organisation will no longer be accepted. Neither will the scheme be used to fund a community group’s past/historical expenditure. In addition contact details for three individuals must be attached to the application.

This year priority will be given to new projects, rather than providing repeat funding to any group which may have benefitted from last year’s community grants scheme. In order to qualify, applicants must also provide funding from their own resources towards the cost of a project and must indicate the level of this “own resources” financial commitment on their application form. Finally, an applicant that has been successful in receiving funding from another local authority scheme will not be eligible for further funds under the Shannon Community Grants Scheme.

Commenting on the revised scheme, meetings coordinator Liam Conneally said in 2017 the new scheme will focus on community organisations and not individuals. He added that the council is very conscious of the need to have proper governance procedures in place when it comes to the disbursing any public monies. Qualifying community organisations should have appropriate structures put in place, in addition he emphasised that the council does not want duplication of public funding.

Referring to the need to avoid duplication, Mr Conneally said, “Just because a community group may be expert at drawing on funding, we do not want that to be taken advantage of.” Cllr Gerry Flynn has endorsed the new eligibility criteria and is impressed by the changes made. “It’s like putting a safety valve on the public finances,” he said. However Cllr Cathal Crowe expressed concern that a community organisation may be precluded from applying to the council to fund separate projects. Cllr Pat McMahon said the council should also facilitate groups undertaking a long-term project that could take up to several years to complete.

Responding to the issues raised, Liam Conneally agreed that where a community group has a long-term plan with a funding proposal, this will give the council confidence to offer support. Such a group should submit its overall plan when applying to have a specific project funded for completion within the budgetary year.

Cllr PJ Ryan stated that all applicant community groups should be encouraged to prepare a plan for their particular project as it will make it easier for councillors to decide on the allocations. At the January meeting, Cllr Cathal Crowe observed that three schools had successfully applied for the last scheme but are ruled out by the new criteria from applying this year.