Funding for LRFs

In the United Kingdom, Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) are non-statutory bodies designed to provide a single platform to bring together those partners with responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) Contingency Planning Regulations (2005).

LRFs, much like the wider world of emergency management, are often shrouded in mystery unless you are a participant yourself. However, through the response to COVID-19 in 2020 LRFs were thrust into the public spotlight by HM Government, often mentioned at press briefings, within newspaper articles, and elsewhere in public discourse. LRFs went from non-statutory bodies guided by a synergy of shared duties and morals to quasi-statutory organisations finding themselves with an increasing amount of structural responsibility in responding to the crisis that was unfolding.

Whilst LRFs consist of those organisations who are members (through virtue of responsibility or mention within HM Governments’ civil contingencies legislation or guidance), a core compliment of staff is required to provide a range of managerial, coordinative and secretarial support to ensure the efficient function of such a large partnership group. Typically, this complement, and all other LRF activities, are funding through a contribution mechanism whereby the organisations attending the LRF each make annual payments in support of the LRF’s activities. There is no national funding formula by which these contributions are defined and some national organisations make no payments at all.

During 2020 the Government quickly realised that the increased burden they were placing on these organisations required a funding stream, and a one-off COVID-19 grant pool was made available to LRFs. The discussion of long-term funding reared its head and Government presumably went away to have a conversation about the future role of LRFs and how much they financially valued them.

Delightfully I have this morning received news that Lord Greenhalgh, Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities, wrote to LRFs during the latter week of April (embargoed for public communication due to the Local Elections) to communicate an LRF Funding Pilot for 2021/22. A pool of £7.5 million will be made available to LRFs to fund “new activity in support of the wider Integrated Review and National Resilience Strategy” – not to displace existing funding arrangements. The £7.5 million will be shared amongst LRFs through a population and Index of Multiple Deprivation formula (no more detail yet shared). The minimum an LRF will receive is £160,000.

The letter goes on to discuss the monitoring and evaluation that will be required of LRFs as part of this funding pilot to evaluate success and decide the future of any funding streams.

Overall, this is great news. Those realists among us may have been sceptical (as indeed I was) about Government providing any real and ongoing funding stream to LRFs despite conversations over the past year. This £7.5 million is a tiny sum in the grand scheme of resilience but clearly shows at least some ambition to explore the impact that a central funding stream could have.

This money will unarguably have more impact at a local level than it would if retained for national resilience functions. The challenge now will be in applying this funding stream within the parameters of the Government’s direction. Does the instruction that this cannot displace local funding mean this cannot be used towards extant staffing? Is the money instead intended to generate fixed term project management teams to implement some of the Government’s resilience strategy at a local level? Will this funding stream prompt current contributors to revisit their own funding to LRFs? Ultimately – can it be used for local priorities or must it fit within the national scope?

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Could this be a step closer to a legislative footing for LRFs?

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