Ayrshire Business Support portrait

Cabinet means business with Community Wealth Building Fund

East Ayrshire Council has put its money where its mouth is, with Cabinet approval of a plan to revamp its Community Wealth Building Fund in response to officer experience and consultation with local businesses.

By cutting the level of recipient contributions and increasing the maximum level of grant funding per application, members heard that many proposed projects in businesses throughout East Ayrshire will now be more achievable through the Community Wealth Building Fund.

Community Wealth Building (CWB) is a key theme within the Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) and this approach sits at the very heart of the Council’s love local ethos.

With total funding for three years of £330k, as East Ayrshire’s share of the Ayrshire Growth Deal Community Wealth Building allocation, the fund seeks to develop resilient, inclusive local economies, with more local employment and a larger and more diverse business base.

The fund was initially launched in 2022, with the recruitment of three CWB Locality Officers and a revamped online grant applications system (GrantVisor).

By the end of June 2023, 282 businesses had been supported by the programme. An independent review carried out this year found that the 38 businesses which took part in the review  had experienced an average 25% increase in turnover with the creation of 98 new jobs.

However the ongoing economic crisis, together with the additional strains on finance and supply chains caused by the effects of Covid, Brexit and Ukraine war, has meant that many of those companies which would have benefited from funding found that the 50% match funding criteria and the low upper limit of £5k made grant applications  less attractive.

For many businesses, reviewing and lowering their carbon footprint to reach Net Zero targets is also a major but often costly concern.

Looking at the ways in which other councils have administered their funds, it was found that a higher degree of flexibility with match funding demands and upper limits for grants had resulted in higher levels of successful allocations and increased business innovation.

Considering the existing constraints and taking into account to the limited funding available, Elected Members agreed that the Fund should be replaced with a new successor fund, removing the match-funding requirement from the eligibility criteria and raising the maximum level of support provided from £5,000 to £25,000 (recognising that not all businesses will require the maximum).  

Applications for the higher level of support will need to meet a robust approval process to evaluate the economic benefits impact.

Alongside new applications to the successor fund, CWB Locality Officers will contact those enterprises which had not previously proceeded with their applications to see if they can now make a claim, with the aim of helping companies fulfil their ambitions.

Councillor Drew Filson, Cabinet member for Community Wealth Building  welcomed the decision saying: “ We pride ourselves on working with our communities to help them in the way that suits them best. We know that the people involved are the best placed to make meaningful suggestions and effective decisions about their own environment.

“In this instance we’ve listened to our business community, looked both at the issues which were preventing some enterprises from accessing this useful funding; and at best practice and what really works elsewhere. This has helped us come up with a solution which we hope will provide a meaningful boost to projects, jobs and the local economy.

“And although this is a three year funding stream it’s not the end of the story.  We’ll be using some of this budget to fund a second round of our Net Zero Nation Accelerator programme. This has already been hugely successful in giving businesses funding to assess and implement measures to help them move towards NetZero targets.

“Our pilot programme, in which we worked in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Net Zero Nation, using the Local Authority Covid Recovery Grant, has already been fully committed to 25 local businesses. By reallocation some of our AGD CWB funding we can now help at least a further 10 businesses who have expressed an interest in taking part.

“By funding the expertise needed to create Carbon Reduction Reports and Plans, the programme is enabling companies to make great savings, while also making them more competitive in an increasingly eco-aware market place.  One local company would have missed out on an eight figure contract if they hadn’t managed to get their reports at short notice in time to meet procurement criteria, through the Net Zero Nation funding.

“Once this current AGD funding is used we’ll also be able to provide ongoing support for decarbonisation and CWB  through our  Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF)  and our £100,000 East Ayrshire Council  Community Climate Change Fund which is designed to maximise carbon emission reduction and behaviour change.

“The main aim of Community Wealth Building as a principle is to “join the dots”, using joined up thinking and community engagement to target funds where they are most needed to promote wellbeing through local economic activity. With this move and the use of various funding streams we’re able to help our businesses move towards a greener more prosperous future with benefits for everyone in East Ayrshire.”