Loan fund is lifeline for village halls
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

More than 60 village halls have undergone facelifts over the past five years thanks to a unique loan fund managed by ACRE (Action with communities in Rural England).

The Rural Community Buildings Loan Fund, which is overseen by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), began life in the 1930s to fund new village halls.

Today, it plays a crucial role in enabling building, renovation and refurbishment work for a range of community buildings across rural England.

“It encourages members of the community to raise funds, knowing a loan could be available to help them achieve their target and secure funding from other sources.”

Village halls apply to ACRE for a share of the £700,000 funding pot for a wide range of projects – from urgent repairs to a roof to a completely new building.

ACRE manages around 40 live loans at any one time and makes between 10 and 14 new loans each year, at an average of £15,000.

Currently, £423,000 is out on loan, with a further £98,000 committed to new borrowers and £123,000 in applications pending.

ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer Deborah Clarke said: “The investment by Government in a loan fund represents exceptional value for money.

“It encourages members of the community to raise funds, knowing a loan could be available to help them achieve their target and secure funding from other sources.”

The interest charge on the loan is returned to the Government, but capital is put back into the fund to support other community buildings.
Deborah added: “Most loans are paid off before the end of their term or even before the end of the project. This is often due to consistent fundraising, drawing down a grant or even a rise in income due to the improvements that the loan has enabled.

“Quite often, these refurbishments would not go ahead with the Rural Community Buildings Loan Fund. It has proved invaluable to small village hall charities across England. We believe the scope of the fund could be extended to help other small rural organisations who have secured grant funding but need that extra bit of financial support.”

ACRE has produced a “short report”:http://tinyurl.com/lygqrho on the fund’s activities in 2013, including case studies from Worcestershire, Surrey and Cumbria.