Community Finance Could Be the Answer to Fund Public Projects; Chief Executive of the Charity Bank Malcolm Hayday Explores Why the Third Sector Could Provide a New Model for Financing Public Projects

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

Community Finance Could Be the Answer to Fund Public Projects; Chief Executive of the Charity Bank Malcolm Hayday Explores Why the Third Sector Could Provide a New Model for Financing Public Projects


Byline: Malcolm Hayday

WALES faces very real challenges over the coming years in funding the delivery of public services.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the Holtham Commission's review of funding and finance for Wales, which is due to issue its second report by the middle of next year, there are likely to be a number of pressures to address spending disparities between the English regions and the devolved administrations.

Public private partnerships were intended to draw on the respective strengths of the public and private sectors and bring private funding to meet public ends. There are those who are strongly opposed to private profit from such programmes or with the implications of long commitments to repay private funding. At this time of crisis perhaps we should dare to think differently. There is a source of funding for public projects that has not been utilised and which has a potentially important role in financing projects which benefit the most disadvantaged communities: that source of funding is the retained surpluses and assets of some of the larger community organisations in Wales.

If the provider of finance for a public project was a Welsh community organisation rather than a City of London firm, the funds would be recycled in Wales in accordance with the charitable and community objectives of that organisation.

According to the Charity Commission, there are 9,700 charities registered in Wales - ignoring all the other clubs, societies, associations and social enterprises. Together they have an income of pounds 982m. Thirteen have an income of over pounds 10m. Some, if we also included credit unions, housing associations and the larger charities, have substantial assets. Wales Council for Voluntary Action estimates that the third sector in Wales totals 30,000 organisations.

Even if only a small proportion of such funds could be released for investment in sustainable projects, they could make a significant difference to the ability of the Welsh Assembly Government to bring forward particular projects at the margin. …

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