Merseylink Time Bank scheme saves local community thousands of pounds

An innovative scheme set up by Merseylink is saving the Halton community thousands of pounds.

The construction consortium, which is building the Mersey Gateway Bridge and associated 9.2km road network, launched the Merseylink Time Bank scheme in May 2014.

Since then, the Merseylink Time Bank has saved the local community an estimated £25,000.

The initiative aims to help local groups and organisations by providing consultancy services for community projects. It works by matching successful applicants with Merseylink’s industry experts who give their time to provide the relevant professional advice and support.

So far 16 successful applicants – including schools, colleges, churches, community centres and local interest groups – are benefiting from Time Bank.

Projects range from scoping works for new play areas, landscape gardens and building restoration, to the development of business plans and digital communications projects.

Where building projects are concerned, Merseylink provides technical input to the initial scoping work. This may involve conducting ground surveys, producing technical drawings and designs, and providing cost estimates. This information helps to determine if projects are feasible; it can also be used to support associated funding applications such as National Lottery funding.

Neil Wilcock, employment and skills coordinator at Merseylink, said:

“We are proud to be able to harness the huge amount of expertise from our project team and share this to enable community projects get off the ground and develop. The type of work we are delivering can cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the open market. Through the Time Bank scheme, we are saving these local groups vital funds.”

Two Halton organisations already benefiting Merseylink Time Bank are:

  • Halton Housing Trust’s Brunswick House (supported accommodation for older people) in Runcorn
  • Pier on the Prom community group in Widnes.

Brunswick House applied to Merseylink Time Bank for help to transform a run-down courtyard into an outdoor haven for residents to enjoy. To assist, Merseylink’s environmental consultancy partner, RSK Environment Ltd, provided a landscape architect to design a new-look garden.

A ground survey and technical drawings were undertaken setting out the style, required materials and suggested vegetation. The design and cost estimates were approved by the residents’ committee and are being used to secure funding so that the building work can take place.

Ann Burns, secretary of Brunswick House Residents Association, said:

“Since we first approached Merseylink Time Bank, we have gone from strength to strength with our project. We received a professional survey and a detailed plan of the garden, which if we had to pay for ourselves, would have taken all of the funding we had raised and more.

“Our new garden, which we expect to open this summer, is going to be beyond our wildest dreams. Time Bank is still working with us, helping us source materials and labour, and generally providing the professional support, which we so desperately needed to succeed. We really cannot thank Merseylink enough for helping us to complete our project.”

Halton community venture, Pier on the Prom, applied to Merseylink Time Bank for assistance with plans to restore the historic pier on Widnes promenade and create a heritage and community centre.

Merseylink partner Scarisbrick Estates conducted a structural survey of the premises, which showed that the building was structurally sound but needed extensive renovation and refurbishment at an estimated cost of £40,000.

The community group has used the survey in its application to Halton Borough Council to purchase the building and has started a crowdfunding event to raise money for the project.

Paul McCann, chair of the Pier on the Prom group, said:

“Without the invaluable help of Time Bank we would not be in the position we are today. We would highly recommend other local groups to take advantage of the help on offer from Merseylink.”

Merseylink is working with Halton Borough Council and Halton & St Helens Voluntary and Community Action to ensure the Time Bank scheme secures clear, measurable benefits for the local community.

Chief executive of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, David Parr, said:

“These cost savings demonstrate exactly how Merseylink’s Time Bank is benefitting our local community. I’m delighted to see so many fantastic projects getting the invaluable support they need to bring about positive change. This is an excellent scheme and I would encourage more Halton groups to apply for support in the future.”

The third round of Time Bank closed on 4 May 2015 and applications are currently being assessed. The next round of Time Bank is due to open in September 2015.

The economic, transport and social benefits the project will bring to the region include:

  • 470 permanent full-time equivalent jobs on site during construction
  • 4,640 permanent direct and indirect jobs
  • £61.9 million a year in Gross Value Added from the new jobs by 2030.