The council recognises the unique position of local voluntary and community sector organisations in supporting residents as well as providing services for them. There is a range of funding opportunities available to local groups.
Tower Hamlets Voluntary and Community Sector Strategy 2020-2024
The Tower Hamlets Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Strategy 2020-2024 is a partnership strategy between the council, voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations in the borough and the council’s partners, in both the public and private sectors.
Its focus is on achieving positive outcomes for the residents of the borough. This will include enabling the borough to recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic and move to a post-pandemic world.
The VCS Strategy has a vision of a diverse and thriving VCS, working alongside residents, the council and partner organisations to achieve better outcomes for residents
The strategy focuses on how the council and partner organisations will work together with the VCS to allow the VCS to thrive and prosper, and not be dependent on the statutory sector.
The strategy relates to the VCS in the widest sense, including:
- registered charities
- faith groups
- unregistered and informal community groups, including mutual aid groups
- social enterprises
- tenants and residents’ associations
- Community Interest Companies with charitable elements
The strategy acknowledges the importance of the VCS to Tower Hamlets, and the strength of the VCS in the borough, which have been particularly underlined by its crucial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strategy will see the VCS having a positive impact on the lives of local residents and being a celebrated asset of the borough. It sees the sector playing a key role in Tower Hamlets’ recovery from the pandemic, developing its own resources and skills to tackle inequalities in the community.
The strategy has three key priorities:
- Better partnership working within the VCS
- A more resilient and sustainable VCS
- Improved partnership arrangements across sectors
The strategy was developed following consultation and work with local VCS organisations, led by Tower Hamlets Council for Voluntary Service, Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group and Tower Hamlets Homes.
The VCS Strategy was agreed by Cabinet on the 25 November 2020.
The implementation of the Strategy is being overseen by Cooperate, the key VCS partnership body in the borough, which involves representation from the VCS, including the Equality Networks in Tower Hamlets the Council, the NHS and Tower Hamlets Homes.
The investment that the council has made in the VCS in Tower Hamlets takes a range of forms. Grants, commissioning, rent and business rate relief for example.
The current flagship funding programme for the VCS in Tower Hamlets is the Local Community Fund (LCF). The work and achievements of projects funded by LCF is highlighted in the Local Community Fund and Infrastructure Capacity Building Fund Annual Report – Oct19-Sep 20.
Premises leased to VCS organisations
The council has premises which it leases to voluntary and community sector organisations. The council's policy on leasing premises to VCS organisations includes
- buildings in the Community Premises Portfolio
- standard lease terms
- stepped rent arrangements
- community Benefit Rent Reduction scheme.
The council reviewed the policy in 2021. Read the full VCS Premises Policy.
The council also has a process for leasing vacant premises in the Community Premises Portfolio to VCS organisations. You can find it on the Property procedures for Disposals and Lettings 2019 (para 3.6).
Community Benefit Rent Reduction
The council has premises that it rents to voluntary and community organisations. These premises are described as the Community Premises Portfolio. Organisations rent these premises to provide services to local people.
The council has a scheme to give rent reduction of up to 80 per cent to organisations that meet its requirements. Organisations that do not meet all the requirements may still get 40 or 20 per cent rent reduction. The scheme is called Community Benefit Rent Reduction (CBRR).
To be eligible for CBRR, an organisation must
- Occupy premises listed in the council’s ‘Community Premises Portfolio’ with a lease of three to five years
- Be community led
- Show good governance
- Embrace diversity, work to improve community cohesion and reduce inequality
- Be capable of managing a building
- Be willing to share space, and
- Show how their activities contribute to the Tower Hamlets Plan outcomes.
Full details of the CBRR scheme are set out in the VCS Premises Policy.
The value of the CBRR may exceed £20,000 per annum. Where this happens, the council’s assessment includes a Social Value Self-Assessment Tool. You can find the guidance here Social Value UK Self Assessment Tools.
Please email email@example.com for an application form, advice and further information.
Council premises leased to Voluntary and Community Sector organisations
The council has a limited stock of buildings which it leases to Voluntary and Community Sector organisations. Most are buildings which have a planning designation D1, which means they cannot be used for commercial activity, and are described as community buildings.
Historically the council has had a number of different arrangements with organisations which was inconsistent and potentially unfair.
During 2016 and 2017 the council worked with the VCS to produce consistent arrangements which met the need for openness and transparency, the council’s requirement to charge an appropriate rent, ensured hidden subsidies would be phased out and, in recognition of the benefit of work carried out by organisations in the community from our buildings, a scheme to reduce the amount of rent VCS lessees might have to pay.
In this section you can find information on a range of licences relevant to some voluntary and community sector organisations, including street collection licences.
News from the Voluntary and Community Sector
To promote your organisation’s events and other information please contact the VCS team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the methods the council can use to promote events and other information include through emails, its website, social media and the Our East End newsletter.
The council publishes a Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) monthly newsletter. It's full of the latest news and information about and relating to Tower Hamlets' diverse and thriving voluntary and community sector.
It includes information on council policy and strategy relating to the VCS and on initiatives and strategies of interest to the VCS.
View back copies of the newsletter:
Tower Hamlets council for Voluntary Services (THCVS)
THCVS is an independent membership organisation for voluntary, community faith and social enterprise organisations in Tower Hamlets. They provide:
Membership of THCVS is free and is open to organisations working in Tower Hamlets. If you need help or information you can reach them directly on 020 8980 8427, email email@example.com or follow them on Twitter @THCVS.