New funding boost hailed

Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher
Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher

VOLUNTARY and community organisations are being invited to apply for grants from a seven-year £280,000 scheme to help improve people’s information technology and computer skills.

The Northgate Community Fund provides a £40,000 pot each year for the next seven years to enhance IT skills within the local community.

This new initiative forms part of a partnership between Hartlepool Borough Council and Northgate Public Services, which will see the company deliver IT services to the local authority over the next seven years.

The deal, announced in January, secured 235 jobs for the town and will save the council £1m a year for the next seven years.

The council has agreed to allocate £10,000 of this each year to match the funding provided by the Gus Robinson Foundation – a scholarship scheme run by Gus Robinson Developments and Hartlepool College of Further Education – for disadvantaged young people.

This leaves £30,000 each year which will be awarded to local organisations involved in improving people’s computing and digital skills.

To be eligible for a grant, organisations must meet the following criteria:

l The organisation must deliver services in the Hartlepool borough;

l The organisation must have been in existence for more than 12 months;

l The projects must be able to demonstrate that they deliver value for money;

l Organisations must not be in receipt of funding for similar activities from the council.

Organisations can apply to use the grant money for a variety of purposes including:

l The cost of training courses to enhance core IT skills offered in the community via community groups;

l Changes as a result of the implementation of Universal Credit which may be supported by both the investment in skills and access to equipment but which may also require the provision of access on line to book appointments and progress applications;

l Establishing a network of community based digital champions to help promote on line service take-up;

l Establishing facilities to support the training of local people, schools and teachers to enhance digital skills.

Council leader, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “The agreement with Northgate Public Services represents fantastic value for the people of Hartlepool.”

Application forms can be obtained by contacting Kirsty Swanson at the council on (01429) 523003. Alternatively, email The closing date is Friday, June 27.