Warsi backs £3m fund to improve communities

Baroness Warsi during her visit to Earby at the launch of the 'No Cold Calling' campaign.
Baroness Warsi during her visit to Earby at the launch of the 'No Cold Calling' campaign.

Communities in Dewsbury will now be able to access a £3m funding pot aimed at getting areas diverse in different religions to improve their neighbourhoods.

The extension of the Near Neighbours scheme has received the backing of Dewsbury-born Faith Minister Sayeeda Warsi.

The fund provides small grants and support to grassroots groups and multi-faith communities, recognising local groups know what works best in their area.

Launched by the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles in 2011 in partnership with the Church Urban Fund, more than 500 groups have received Near Neighbours grants of up to £5,000.

Baroness Warsi said: “We developed the concept of Near Neighbours many years ago – using the existing infrastructure of the church to bring together people of all faiths.

“It was ambitious and it was challenging.

“But after three years, hundreds of small grants, and thousands of volunteers, this programme has proved one thing – that faith can make a real difference at the heart of our communities.

“So I feel immensely proud to see Near Neighbours reaching out to more people, having more of a local impact, and showing more and more that faith is a positive force in our society.”

Bradford was one of the first four areas to get access to the programme after it was set up and communities there received more than £560,000 over three years.

Some successful Near Neighbours projects to have benefited from the small grants include a youth football team in East London, a youth music programme in Oldham and a community garden in Leicester.

Mr Pickles said: “This extra money is a real investment in our shared future that will enable Near Neighbours to reach many more communities so they can become even better places to live.”