Community Choices: Public vote helps local groups secure £1.2m funding windfall

Local people used their voting power to help groups and organisations secure a total of £1,217,277 through Community Choices Place-based Capital Programme.

Run by Falkirk Council in partnership with Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, Community Choices aims to provide local people with a way to apply for public funding to improve their local area and vote to decide how public money is spent.

Almost 16,000 eligible votes were cast in favour of the projects that residents felt best reflected the needs of their local community, which helped ensure 19 out of the 27 bids secured funding – ranging from £25,000 to £190,000 – to build something new, improve an asset, or purchase equipment.

Bids that were not successful either didn’t secure the minimum threshold of 10% of the eligible votes in their ward or, where they did, the monies were already secured by bids with higher vote counts.

Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, Leader of Falkirk Council, said: “A huge thank you goes to all those who submitted bids. It was evident a lot of time and effort had gone into creating projects that would strengthen communities. Thank you also goes to all those who voted. By doing so, you have ensured a wide range of projects will now get funding to help communities become fairer, healthier, more connected and more inclusive.”

Read more about two of the successful bids below, from KLSB Community Group and Friends of Forth Valley First Responders.

View all successful bids

Tackling food poverty

Pictured John McMorran, chairman of KLSB Community Group, with kitchen utensils that will be used in the group's community kitchen.

Securing £31,520 though Community Choices will help the KLSB Community Group (KLSB) turn its dream of opening a community hub and kitchen into a reality.

Initially set up in 2018 as a litter picking group by husband-and-wife team John and Sheona McMorran, KLSB quickly grew its remit to plant flowers in the local area – and has since established over 100 micro gardens in and around Larbert and Stenhousemuir.

In November 2019, the group opened a small community pantry. Four months later COVID-19 struck. Working alongside Stenhousemuir Football Club and Falkirk Council, KLSB set up and ran a food distribution centre out of the Dobbie Hall, helping thousands of people put food on the table during the pandemic.

Having gained charitable status last year, the group moved the food pantry to the former Co-op building at 38 King Street, Stenhousemuir, where it continues to offer weekly supplies of food, personal hygiene and other essential household items.

Now, with COVID-19 loosening its grip, KLSB is looking to the future and will use the Place-based Capital funding to set up a community hub and kitchen in 17 King Street, Stenhousemuir.

Once established, the kitchen will help combat food poverty by providing healthy, nutritious meals that will be distributed to the most vulnerable residents via the food pantry for free.

John McMorran, Chairman, KLSB said: “Setting up a community kitchen has always been Sheona’s dream. Having previously worked with a large charity teaching people how to cook on a shoestring, she has seen first-hand the positive impact community kitchens can have.

“Without the backing of the community the kitchen would have remained a pipedream, so thank you to everyone who took the time to vote. To say we are delighted is an understatement!”

As well as creating a place to learn how to cook, the hub and kitchen will provide as safe space for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to help address discrimination, stigma, poverty, and other social inequalities.

A lunch club for the vulnerable and elderly will be established alongside classes in CPR and crochet. KLSB will also work with Larbert High School and Developing the Young Workforce to offer young people the chance to volunteer and gain valuable work experience in a fully working kitchen and café.

John said: “Although it won’t be a café open to the public, it will be a place where groups and clubs can meet and chat with a tea or coffee and a bite to eat. This will help reduce social isolation and create a place of understanding, where young and old can learn from each other and develop a real love for their community.”

Work to fitout the hub and kitchen will begin shortly, with KLSB expecting to open the doors this June.

Saving lives

Pictured Martin Stuart, Treasurer for Friends of Forth Valley First Responders, places a defibrillator into a public access box.

Having spotted a post on social media promoting Community Choices, Friends of Forth Valley First Responders submitted a bid to the Falkirk area-wide category and has now secured £73,485 to install lifesaving equipment in each council ward.

Set up in 2013, the Falkirk-based charity supports the work of Forth Valley First Responders (FVFR), a group of volunteers trained by The Scottish Ambulance Service to attend 999 emergencies before the arrival of an ambulance.

By raising funds, the charity helps cover the running costs of FVFR and supports public education initiatives and the promotion of good healthcare across Forth Valley.

It also buys lifesaving equipment and will use the Place-based Capital funding to further improve access to Public Access Defibrillators (PADs) by installing an additional 45 PADs in the local area – that’s five in each council ward.

Martin Stuart, Treasurer for Friends of Forth Valley First Responders, said he was “speechless” when he heard the news the bid had been successful and thanked everyone who voted for the project.

He said: “Every year the Scottish Ambulance Service responds to around 200 people in the Falkirk area who have a sudden, unexpected out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Only 10% of these people survive. Research shows that PADs, placed within 150 metres of a person having a cardiac arrest, increases their chance of survival by 50 to 70%.

“Although Falkirk currently doesn’t have enough PADs – as ideally you would have one every 100 to 150 meters – this funding allows us to buy, install, and maintain an additional 45 PADs, raising the number that can be deployed by the Scottish Ambulance Service in the Falkirk Council area to 115.

“Using data from the Resuscitation Research Group, and working with communities, the PADs will be installed in the most optimal locations in areas of highest risk, ensuring an additional 23 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests per year will be within range of a PAD.”

Martin estimates it will take a year to install the equipment. At the same time, the charity will offer training to the public because “it is important that the community in the immediate area are fully aware of what to do if the device is required to be used – call 999, carry out CPR, use PAD”.

He added: “By placing PADs within the community and rolling out public familiarisation and awareness sessions in CPR and the use of PADs, we can provide the skills, confidence and equipment that will help save lives.”