Council creates £50k lifeline fund for Bedford charities struggling during pandemic


A charitable trust run by Bedford Borough Council has created a £50,000 urgent fund to help charities struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The trust, called the House of Industry Estate, owns land including Bedford Rugby Club, and the St Peter’s car park, and charges rents which provides part of its £282,079 budget.

It also has some £5 million in investments, held mainly in endowment funds.

Both sources of its income are expected to be hit by the pandemic, especially since at its meeting on Tuesday, the House of Industry Estate Management Committee decided to give rent rebates to all its tenants except the council itself.

The committee, whose councillor members are officially trustees, agreed to give urgent grants of up to £5,000 to charities that can prove there has been severe financial pressure.

Trustees approved a decision to give £5,000 to the FACES charity that supports children and families faced with issues such as mental and physical health, domestic abuse, poverty, and child sexual exploitation.

They also decided to give grants to a range of applicants under the trust’s normal decision-making process.

ACCM, which works to enable minority and the most disadvantaged communities, was given £10,000 to keep it running while the charity waits for the outcome of an application to the National Lottery.

ACCM has already received £10,000 from House of Industry funds and was recently granted £1,000 by Movement for Good.

Lee Phanco, the Borough’s chief officer for customer experience and digital services, said ACCM has been active in supporting the local community.

“They are fairly confident they will be successful with the National Lottery bid,” he said.

Councillors see supporting work with the black and minority ethnic (BAME) community as crucial.

Cllr Christine McHugh (Lib Dem, Goldington), who was chairing the meeting, said the council want to see more engagement with the BAME communities and the public health team.

And Cllr Louise Jackson (Lab, Harpur), said she welcomed the opportunity to work with ACCM. “It’s going to be really important. I am happy to proceed with this and for them to work with us.”

The committee also made the following decisions:

  • They granted £25,000 to Smart Criminal Justice Services for emergency repairs to its base in St John Street. The charity  supports homeless, rough sleepers and the vulnerably housed.
  • Trustees granted £3,500 to the British Red Cross for the purchase of 20  wheelchairsto assist Bedford people experiencing need, hardship or distress. They had asked for £23,500.
  • They rejected a request for £10,000 from St Paul’s Church to pay for a pastoral assistant who helps provide a town centre service for the homeless.

Cllr Jackson said she shared the view of the council’s officers that “we can’t keep funding the same thing.” The charity has received support previously but this time the committee agreed a nil award.

Councillors agreed to give Autism Bedfordshire half of its request for £10,000 but said they would welcome future applications.

They agreed to grant the full £15,000 requested by Yarl’s Wood Befrienders and ask the organisation to spend the money where possible to help people to take precautions against coronavirus.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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