It is fair to say that I could not have taken up the role of Portfolio Holder for Resources at a more exciting and promising time – a role that brings with it the responsibility for all things relating to the financial strategy of the Council.
I always endeavour to keep the people of the borough at the very heart of the work that I do and so it has been wonderful to support the development of a Community Chest Fund for 2023/24. We wanted to create a funding resource that community groups and charities from around the borough could bid to, to support community initiatives and empower people to shape their own areas.
With this new introduction, we have allocated £80,000 to be shared equally in £5,000 allotments throughout each of the Borough’s 16 wards. The deadline for applications will be 31 January 2024 and grants will in turn be awarded in February and March. More information about criteria and how to apply will be shared soon and I look forward to seeing the community work that this funding will support.
In other news, it is with open arms that we welcome the return of the keys from the liquidators for the Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre and Theatre. As a long time resident of Oswaldtwistle myself, I can attest to the Civic being vital for the cultural life of the Borough and that is precisely why we are doing all that we can to make sure the centre reopens. The Civic theatre, formerly Oswaldtwistle Town Hall, has been the beating at the heart of Oswaldtwistle for many years and I sincerely wish to see this continue for many more years to come which is why we continue to make this a top priority.
Right now, there is considerable work that needs to be completed to renovate the Civic to ensure that is has the future that it deserves. We will continue to share updates as soon as we are able to and we appreciate everyone’s ongoing patience throughout their process. Thank you especially to everyone who has taken part in the online survey, designed to gather residents’ thoughts on the future of the building. I want to assure you that we are committed to making sure that all the appropriate work is carried out and that we will see the return of the Art Centre and Theatre to the borough in all its former glory.
Finally, I am delighted to welcome in the news of an additional £20 million of funding being allocated to Accrington through the Long Term Plan for Towns. This new funding is designed to be given over 10 years to invest in local people’s priorities with the aim of empowering communities across the UK to take back control of their future.
Taken alongside the existing Levelling Up Funding that has been allocated to the three transformational projects of Accrington Market Hall, Burtons Chambers and Market Chambers, the town is receiving record investment that has only been possible through collaborative, forward-thinking action from all involved. As someone who has worked and resided in this town for such a long time, I feel immensely proud to witness this moment in the borough’s history and I am especially excited to see how we can work together to ensure that the whole borough benefits from this additional funding.