DTNI Calls On Local Government in NI to Level Up With Community and Voluntary Sector

DTNI has today called on local government authorities to support community organisations as they seek to acquire vital funding and ‘level up’ their neighbourhoods.

The first round of awards from the UK government’s Levelling Up Fund were rolled out at the end of 2021, with the second round having been announced in March. However, DTNI is calling for a review of the Fund’s criteria due to a failure by government to consider the capital development requirements of the NI community and voluntary sector. They point to the approach taken by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in its support of Omagh Enterprise in the first-round call and argue that this can be emulated in other NI council areas. 

DTNI Programme Manager, Charlie Fisher, said, “the Levelling Up Fund’s criteria requires evidence of the delivery of two capital infrastructure projects, which precludes most community development organisations from applying and prevents economic regeneration in the areas that need it most. A more strategic approach is needed: the third sector needs access to capacity funding such as that made available to local government, and it needs the support of those local authorities. We have requested a meeting, on behalf of our members, with Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove to discuss this.”

This comes after DTNI member organisation, Grow The Glens, announced that plans to redevelop Cushendall police station into a new remote working hub have been put on ice. The £300k awarded to Grow the Glens last October from the Community Ownership Fund was the result of years of campaigning by the organisation to transform the derelict building and bring jobs and opportunities to the Glens area. However, the planned transfer of ownership of the asset has yet to happen and with the spending of the £300k time-bound, the project is now in jeopardy. 

Over the last five years, Grow the Glens has been helping to encourage economic activity in the Glens of Antrim, but as Grow the Glen’s Neil McManus points out, without the support of public bodies, “we risk the significant progress made thus far being in vain. We are running out of time.”