NEWBURY Town Council has stumped up £8,000 of emergency grant funding for local charities responding to the coronavirus crisis.

To make it easier for charities to get grant funding, the town council has streamlined the application process, making it quicker and easier.

Normally, councillors on the grants committee would have to meet in a room to decide who to grant money to, but on April 14 they voted in a virtual meeting to give that power to the chief executive of the town council.

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Councillor Gary Norman, chairman of the grants committee, said: “We should be able to respond to requests during this crisis. We need to be more flexible and responsive.”

The initial £8,000 could be topped up further, if there is enough demand from local charities.

Cllr Martha Vickers said: “Speed is of the essence. What worried me about this was how quickly we can respond. The sort of people who need aid, like charities, they need the money now.”

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Charities and groups looking for grant funding can apply either through the online fundraising service the Good Exchange, or directly to the town council. It’s possible that donations from town council will be then match-funded from the Greenham Common Trust.

Councillors on the grants committee will be emailed, and then will have two working days to consider the request and let the chief executive of the town council know what they think. Hugh Peacocke, the chief executive, will then decide whether to grant the money.

Cllr Norman said: “Instead of all of us having to meet in a room, we delegate the decision to Hugh, who consults us to say whether we’re happy with it.”

Groups mentioned who might apply for grant funding from the town council include homeless charity Loose Ends, the Newbury Soup Kitchen, and local distillery Gin 137 which has started making hand sanitiser.

The soup kitchen wants to buy £1,000 worth of hand sanitiser from 137 Gin, and have applied for a grant for £500 from the town council, which will likely be match-funded from the Greenham Common Trust.

Mr Peacocke said: “[Applicants] would ideally be registered as a charity, but all applications will be considered.”

Cllr Norman added: “There may be some non-charities — people who don’t yet have charity status — but are still providing useful services.

“As long as there’s scrutiny and we’re not just writing a cheque to anyone asking for money; as long as we’re happy that they’re a genuine good cause, then I think we’re fine.”