Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire are saying that an area’s particular needs are not been taken into account in a new grants scheme that goes live today.
The Conservative Council today launches its Member Awarded Funding scheme for community grants, following its decision to abolish the district’s grant-awarding Area Forums earlier this year. The new scheme allocates £3,000 to each of the district’s 70 councillors to award to local community projects.
Labour says that this flat rate approach means that no priority is being given to the district’s Priority Neighbourhoods. Councillors from even the most affluent areas will be given the same amount to award.
Councillor Ian Boulton, who leads for Labour on community services, says:
“Whilst we support the principle of devolving funds to localities, the Tories’ new scheme ignores our Priority Neighbourhoods’ particular needs. We fear that this is a sign that being a Priority Neighbourhood – which is determined by government deprivation statistics – is becoming increasingly meaningless under Tory control of the Council.”
Councillor Boulton is also questioning the effect of a decision to block councillors from being able to award funds to any local group with which they have a formal role. He says:
“Whilst we fully recognise the need to ensure that councillors don’t personally benefit from these grants, the decision to block councillors from being able to award funds to any local group with which they have a formal role will effectively discriminate against councillors who are particularly active in their ward. This seems a strange disincentive for councillors to get involved in local community groups.”
Councillor Pat Rooney, who leads South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors, adds:
"We are seeing a pattern that our ruling Tories are not giving any priority to our Priority Neighbourhoods. We have noted this in their library proposals and in their plans to ship hundreds of jobs out of Kingswood."
The council has made it clear that its Member Awarded Funding scheme is only guaranteed for this financial year, and that its continuation in future years is dependent on future budget decisions.