The government’s Transforming Local Infrastructure fund has been largely successful, according to an analysis by Navca.
The local infrastructure body has been tracking the way money awarded under the £30m government programme has been spent. It says early indications are that the programme has delivered lasting improvements to local infrastructure.
The funding, which ends in September, was awarded to 74 consortia of councils for voluntary service and other local infrastructure bodies to help them to adapt the way they work.
Navca spoke to members to find out what they had achieved with their grants so far. Its report, entitled Transforming Local Infrastructure: Early Indications, shows progress in seven areas, including mergers, collaboration, charging for services and working with business.
One of the biggest mergers was in Suffolk, where 10 charities merged into a single organisation, while in Tameside another merger is estimated to have saved the organisations £50,000 a year with no detriment to services.
Navca also found good examples of collaboration in Wolverhampton, where joint purchasing of printing, stationary and telecoms is saving voluntary organisations up to 30 per cent on the costs of these items.
An aim of the TLI grants was to help charities to become more financially sustainable; one element of this is charging for services to create earned income.
In Sheffield, 10 organisations joined forces to create FUSE, which provides support services to charities. But the partnership said grant funding would be needed for it to continue, because charities could not pay enough for it to be self-sufficient.
Charities have also been successful at reaching out to local businesses, Navca has found. Merton CVS took the unusual step of using its TLI grant to fund a full-time post at the chamber of commerce.
In Tameside, the partnership has a branded portal for businesses to connect with local charities called Tameside4Good, which has already been replicated by neighbouring Wigan and Salford.
"Although this is just an initial exploration of what TLI has achieved, there are some promising signs," said Joe Irvin, chief executive of Navca. "I am really impressed with how Navca members have used this support to try something new. We know times are tough but, as ever, Navca members have risen to the challenge of making sure local communities are supported."