Predicting the future is a risky business. After all "nothing is ever certain", particularly in local government. Despite this, I'm going to make a prediction. Over the next few years, more councils will begin to realise the benefit of having a dedicated team of funding experts.
Chester City Council set up its own team in 1994, establishing itself as a major asset to both the council and the local voluntary and community sector (VCS).
With a team of six officers, our target for 2002/03 is £2.25 million. We have already secured £4.6 million for council projects and the VCS in Chester. For a medium-size local authority, that's no mean feat.
Different members of the team work on specific key areas, including European, statutory, National Lottery and private-sector funding. We also provide grants of £850,000 through our Funding Compact with the VCS.
We provide valuable help to other councils and voluntary groups by providing advice, information and training, and close liaison with funding bodies. A key factor to our success is the use of networks both internally and externally at a regional and national level.
The fact that a growing number of councils recognise the value of a strong funding team is illustrated by a new partnership between Chester and Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council. Over the next three years, we will provide our expertise to help build their capacity to develop a funding team and strategy.
We have recently established a sponsorship policy with a target of £50,000, which has already been realised with private-sector support. We will continue to build on our success to ensure that Chester City Council helps to improve the quality of life for people in the area.