Clubs will all be charged on a level playing field from now on

Sports and activity clubs who rent district council facilities will all be treated on a level playing field from now on and will have the opportunity to apply for a grant to help them in the future.

East Devon District Council has run workshops to help its sports and activity club tenants learn more about how to apply for these grants. During these two sessions attended by eight separate sports and activity club tenants, a number of similar queries came up which officers were able to help with.

Currently, East Devon District Council leases premises to some 37 sports and activity organisations. However, these arrangements, including the rent charges, can vary significantly from club to club due to historical arrangements.  Some clubs have benefited from reduced rents while there are others that have not received this financial support. The council’s Cabinet, as recommended by the Asset Management Forum, decided in June 2015 that any financial support for clubs must be more transparent, accountable and reflect a clearly determined subsidy level.

Any subsidy involves public money and the Forum wanted to make sure that the best use possible was being made of this financial support.  A further information report on the issue went before Cabinet in May this year.

The council’s new approach is to introduce a rent support grant arrangement which will make the allocation of funding support more consistent and fair. From their next rent review or lease renewal date, all clubs will be liable to pay market rent for their facility by the council. At this time, a rent valuation will be determined, taking into account such factors as the size of the facility, the terms of the lease and the variety of uses of the site.  In addition, it will be an opportunity to review the current arrangements such as the length of lease.

At the same time, clubs can apply to the district council for a rent support grant and their application will be assessed objectively against a range of criteria. These assessments will include looking at the benefits the club brings or could bring to the local community, whether they have a good and realistic financial plan and how much the club needs a grant.

Clubs that attended the workshops were able to discuss their concerns with the Council.  There are ones that are trying hard to recruit new members and improve their club and facilities by building up money to pay for these improvements but worried that they might not be eligible for a grant. Officers were able to reassure these clubs that the decision-making panel of councillors would be looking to give grants to help clubs that were putting a real effort into helping themselves. This includes activities such as applying for grants, involving their clubs in the community and becoming more sustainable by recruiting new members and improving facilities.

Ten sports and activity clubs, whose leases are up for renewal this year, are eligible to apply for the Rent Support Grant and now have until 29 September 2016 to submit an application.

Councillor Ian Thomas, East Devon District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and the grant applications panel chairman, said: 

The workshops were well received and gave us the opportunity to clarify some issues that were worrying these organisations. It’s important to reiterate that the new grants scheme is all about having a fair accountable system to help those who merit financial support. It’s about making sure that our limited funds reach the right groups and organisations.

All sports and activity clubs that lease or hire facilities from East Devon District Council have already received detailed information on the changes and the grants scheme.