It’s been very quiet in the grants space and thus a while since our last blog. But spring is in the air and there is a lot happening in Canberra and elsewhere with budgets and grant programs opening over the next few weeks so ‘it’s time’.
When are the Australian and State Government Budgets?
The Australian Government budget will be handed down in Parliament in Canberra on Tuesday 6th October 2020. State Government budgets are dependent on the Australian Government budget and so most are being handed down in November. SA hand down the 2020/21 state budget on the 10th November, Tasmania 2020-21 State Budget will be delivered on the 12th November, and NSW is handed down on the 17th November. Other states and territories are similar, with the additional impact of the forthcoming Queensland and ACT elections and the recent NT election on their budget delivery dates.
Why are budgets important for grants?
This sounds like a simple question but it is one we are often asked. There is a perception that politicians can just announce grants anytime they like, and that they have access to a bottomless pit of money. Just like Councils’ budget, that perception is wrong. Every grant, Australian Government and State Government, must be legally appropriated through the budget process and must appear as a line item in an Australian and State Government Departments ‘Portfolio Budget Statement’. The Departments have control of grant funds, not the politicians. It will take whole different blog to explain this in detail, watch this space.
What has been the impact of the different budget dates on the Grants Cycle?
Significant. While grants can be available at any time of the year, the normal grants cycle sees two peaks with large numbers of grants open in April/May and then September/October. As the Australian Government budget was delayed from the normal June delivery date and will now be handed down in Parliament on 6 October 2020, expect a large number of grant programs to open in a very short space of time, followed by State Government grant programs in November/December. If you are involved in grants, expect the year’s grant rounds to be condensed into 3 months.
Hasn’t the Australian Government already opened grant programs?
Section51 has already been inundated with inquiries about Building Better Regions Fund being open. BBRF has not been opened, but announcement has been made that funds for the next round will be in the Budget. Here is link:
Are there other Australian Government grant programs opening after the budget?
Yes. Governments very much like to announce grant programs many times over. The following grant programs have already been announced but are not open as at 4 October. Most have to wait until the appropriation of funds on budget night.
This list is just part of the potential Australian Government grants. State Government grant opportunities have not been listed but will emerge in more detail in November.
Will Building Better Regions Fund be the same as the last round?
No and will be different to previous rounds. While the words say that the round will ‘be consistent with the existing BBRF framework, to assist potential applicants’ the focus will be fundamentally different. Last round was drought and fire, this round is tourism and jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs.
What does that mean for projects that we apply for?
Project selection is going to be critical for this round, more than ever before. BBRF is going to be about jobs, not just during construction but long-term sustainable jobs. Jobs that you can prove, and jobs that will flow through to your community. Did we say that projects must have jobs you can prove, not just assume or make up? And based on last rounds feedback, these jobs must flow into a social outcome for your community that you can also prove.
But isn’t that is going to take a lot of work?
Yes, and some hard decisions will have to be made by council. To explain, Section51 has recently reviewed the 93 council and other submissions to the NSW Inquiry into Integrity, Efficacy and Value for Money of NSW Government Grant Programs. While the Inquiry is still going, there were some consistent themes through the Council submissions. Just a few of many themes are:
What is the purpose of grants?
As the Section51 team is made up of former NSW and Australian Government grant managers, this theme through the submission was the most interesting. Councils have grown to believed that the money provided through grants is for them and their community. This might be the Council’s objective, but it is not the Australian or State Governments objective. Grants are provided to achieve the funding providers i.e. the Australian and State government outcomes. Simple and straight forward, to achieve the Australian and State Government policy objectives.
Is it worth having criteria for project selection?
Yes. As BBRF is going to be so different to past rounds, Section51 is developing criteria for project selection to be met before applying. We are moving into a different funding world and the risk of applying is now part of our consultancy consideration, not just councils. We will be happy to discuss these with you on an individual basis.
What is the next step?
Start preparing your projects for the many soon to be open grant programs, including Building Better Regions Fund. Remember to consider how to present the social outcome and benefits to your community.