Voluntary groups, residents associations and parish councils can now bid for grants of up to £20,000 to support schemes benefiting local communities. 

The funding, which is now available through Essex County Council's Community Initiatives Fund, is aimed at helping lgroups develop and improve community services.

Groups are able to apply for funding for schemes in categories including health, education, the environment and economic growth.

Applications of interest must be submitted by August 29.

County council cabinet member for libraries, communities and planning, John Jowers, said: "Local groups play a major role in communities and it’s so important that they are able to continue their good work, especially during financially difficult times.

"Through making this money available we can help them maintain and further enhance the services they provide for the benefit of the people of Essex."

Groups can access the form here.