Charities invited to apply for £10,000 grants as mayor says scheme not designed to plug cuts gap
The Guardian Friday 4 March 2011
Boris Johnson has secured £2m from the Reuben Foundation and £2m from the GLA for ‘Team London’. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Boris Johnson has secured £4m to “harness goodwill” and get Londoners involved in delivering services to improve the capital. The mayor wants to mobilise them to help with tree planting and maintenance, Guides and Scouts and other youth services to “put the village back into the city”.
Johnson, who has been pressing the case for a return of the philanthropy of the Victorian era, has £2m from the Reuben Foundation, set up by property developers Simon and David Reuben, and plans to plough in a further £2m from the GLA over the next three years for the “Team London” scheme.
The mayor will launch the scheme to charities and the voluntary sector, who will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £10,000 with a view to bolstering volunteering capacity in their organisations.
Johnson’s plan is in line with the prime minister’s call for a “big society” based on more volunteering and social action.
But the mayor made scant mention of Cameron, aligning himself instead with a scheme pioneered by his friend and colleague Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York.
London will be the first city outside the US to launch a programme based on the successful “cities of service” model, where a city-wide plan is developed to engage people in volunteering strategies that address the areas of most need.
Johnson wants more people to roll up their sleeves and help with a number of projects designed to tackle deep-rooted social challenges facing London and has been advised by Bloomberg’s office on setting up the London scheme. The London mayor has set the priorities as cutting crime, increasing youth opportunities and improving quality of life.
Residents have staged a number of protests over service cuts planned by boroughs as a result of the tight budget settlement, with youth services a casualty of cuts in many town halls.
The mayor maintains that Team London is not designed to plug the gap left by cuts but to “add value”.
Figures in the 2007/08 citizenship survey showed just over 41% of Londoners were engaged in formal volunteering through an organisation in the previous year. The majority of volunteering was carried out by a small minority of the population, with the most active 7% found to have donated two-thirds of the total number of hours. If informal volunteering was included 72% of Londoners said they had done so at least once in the previous year.
“I am continually humbled by some of the amazing, generous work Londoners do to make it a better place for us all,” said Johnson. “This great capital was built on the generosity and philanthropy of some of the great titans of the 19th century. Team London is about what we can achieve when we act together. I want to see the village put back into the city and for every precious hour that Londoners spend volunteering to achieve the greatest possible impact – for them, for others and for London as a whole.”
Six projects will be launched in the first tranche, including improving youth literacy. Interventions could include volunteers engaging carers and parents to make the family home more “literacy friendly”.
Johnson also wants more volunteers to join uniformed groups such as Guides, Brownies and the Scouts, which have long waiting lists.
Other projects include planting and maintaining trees as part of Johnson’s drive to make London greener. The mayor is hoping to secure further funding from business and charitable donations to underwrite future projects.
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