Sunderland's Foundation of Light set for £240,000 lifeline as it battles challenges from coronavirus

Sunderland’s Foundation of Light could receive a major cash boost under plans being considered by council bosses.

By Chris Binding
Thursday, 11th June 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Friday, 12th June 2020, 3:23 pm

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The Beacon of Light, the Foundation's HQ
The Beacon of Light, the Foundation's HQ

Next week, Sunderland City Council’s ruling cabinet will be asked to award a £240,000 grant to support the official charity of Sunderland AFC.

The funds form part of plans to support the charity’s operations at the Beacon of Light and to meet future challenges from coronavirus.

Subject to cabinet approval, the cash would be drawn from a £500,000 social recovery reserve helping to support the charity and voluntary sector in the city.

The report to cabinet reads: “The council has been involved with the Foundation of Light since its inception, contributing a significant amount to the original construction of the Beacon of Light facility.

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“The foundation now delivers significant social benefits to the city through its programmes of local sports and education activities.

“The proposed additional one-off grant would assist in ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of the charity, so that it is better able to meet its business plan targets through to August 2021 and the resulting social benefits for the city, as well as having a secure financial standing to meet the challenges arising from Covid-19.”

In 2018, the Beacon of Light facility opened offering a range of sports and education activities.

The venue is operated by the Foundation of Light charity and aims to engage young people and their families, via football, to deliver personal development activities to enhance skills, motivation and career opportunities.

According to cabinet papers, as of February 2020, more than 7,000 people a week were using the centre.

The city council previously contributed around £3million towards the circa £20million Beacon of Light in return for “specific use and advertising rights in respect of the facility.”

However, documents state that the Foundation of Light had a financial loss in the year ended August 31 2019 and had to rely on its reserves until the end of December.

A match-funding campaign was later launched to replenish the reserves and was successful in raising half a million pounds in private donations.

Sunderland City Council’s grant aims to support the charity and the ongoing delivery of its social benefit programmes at the Beacon of Light.

Due to the size of the contribution, cabinet approval is required to make the grant under relevant legal powers.

The cabinet report goes on to say: “An option to provide no additional support has been discounted as the Foundation of Light and its facility are valuable assets which provide major social benefits to the city.

“A decision to not provide the requested financial support to the charity would put at risk the delivery of such benefits within Sunderland.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the city council’s cabinet has begun meeting remotely with meetings live-streamed on the council’s YouTube channel.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 16 at 2pm and can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_vfdSqAZgQ

For more information on the Beacon of Light’s response to Covid-19 and current services, visit: www.foundationoflight.co.uk/beacon-news/covid-19-update

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