Wigan Council’s pioneering approach to working with the local community has been recognised with a national award. The popular Deal for Communities Investment Fund, which gives residents the opportunity to bid for money to benefit their local area, scooped the ‘Community Engagement Project of the Year’ award at the Public Finance Innovation Awards.
Since launching in 2013, the Deal for Communities Investment Fund has ploughed millions into the borough to support local projects, initiatives and community groups, which in turn has helped change people’s lives. And, the town hall promised another £1m toward the pot earlier this year, meaning that by the end of 2018 a staggering £10m will have been invested back into the community helping with a range of topics from mental health awareness, social isolation, digital skill development and more.
Donna Hall, Chief Executive of Wigan Council said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that the Deal for Communities Investment Fund has been recognised in this way and would like to thank all of our community groups for making it possible. “Despite being the third worst affected local authority in the country as a result of the funding cuts in 2010, we have bucked the trend and have continued to invest in local people.
“Thanks to our approach, we have been able to transform our services and encourage local groups to be sustainable even after their investment fund support gradually comes to an end. By the community working with us in this way, we’ve been able to save more money in the long run, which has enabled us to keep libraries open, keep school crossing patrols intact and more. “We have built and maintained a strong and trusting relationship with the voluntary and third sector borough-wide and that’s down to the values of The Deal.
The Public Finance Innovation Awards recognises people, products and services that demonstrate excellence and originality within public finance. Entries are judged by a panel of distinguished industry leaders and winners of the awards are acknowledged as best in class.
The Community Engagement Project of the Year award recognises Wigan Council’s Deal for Communities Investment Fund as a project that connects and engages meaningfully with the communities it serves.
CIPFA President Andrew Burns said: “True innovation is not about putting your head down and working really hard, it’s about recognising a problem, understanding what is at fault and coming up with a new solution. For public finance professionals, it’s about creating, developing and implementing new ideas that benefit the public. It’s about investing in new skills, being effective communicators, smart collaborators and flexible leaders. “Innovation plays a crucial role in today’s public sector. If the country is to achieve long-term financial sustainability, and it must, last night’s winners and runners ups, will be those leaders whose drive will deliver the game-changing innovations that will enable better use of public money. “And recognising how this is being achieved in practice is what makes these Public Finance Innovation Awards so important for us all.”
One project that has been supported by the Deal for Communities Investment Fund is The Beehive Centre in Moseley Common. It has been running for almost two years, providing vital services for local people after taking over a previously council-ran day centre.
Mavis Grundy, co-owner of centre, said: “The support from the council and the community investment funding has been amazing. We now have 15 volunteers who work at the centre, which is having a huge impact on the local community. “The reason why we wanted to set up the centre in the first place was to help support local people who are isolated and lonely in their community- with the centre being surrounded by bungalows for the elderly is was a perfect opportunity for us to provide that vital support. “We chose the name ‘The Beehive Centre’ as we wanted it to be a busy place where people of all ages felt they could come and make new friend, meet up with old friend or just relax.”
For more information about the Deal for Communities Investment Fund, visit