26 Jan 2009

Tory U-turn on voluntary grant cut

This afternoon I went to a meeting to discuss Member Development and training - a small committee which looks at how best to develop members knowledge etc - anyhow I have to confess I nearly forgot it and had made plans to catch up on emails etc - I remembered in time - but emails will have to be done tomorrow now - but I wanted to quickly note more re Full Council last Wednesday as promised - see also previously re budget and ethical investment here and here re insulation.

One item that caused a stir and led to a U-turn by the administration was the 'Rural and Community Grants Scheme.(£39,000).' Here is what Independent Councillor Janet Wood had to say: "The quiet dropping of the above scheme voted through by us at last year’s budget meeting is nothing less than scandalous. The scheme which has been supported cross-party since its inception in the middle nineties supports small voluntary organisations without employees and acts as parish pump style funding for sports clubs, play-grounds,village halls, youth clubs etc. It was recognised that rural areas get very little for their council tax and the scheme helps sustain village life.(clearly supporting environmental and social inclusion aims).

"On page one of our Residents Survey it states ‘there has been a downturn in positive satisfaction for many services with the exception of concessionary fares, energy advice and grants to voluntary groups.’ Thirty groups attended the application training session in the Spring and thirty one applications were made from some 20 bodies some for several different projects. Projects bad for the fund by the end of June deadline. On being asked what the outcomes were I discovered the Scheme had quietly been cut. When a Council agrees to do something it must be seen to keep its word. This is about the whole ethos of public service."

Janet proposed a motion to restore the overall sum for this year only - it was passed overwhelmingly after much debate - well done to Janet - a shame such cuts are still planned in future but we should not forget that SDC gives more to voluntary groups than many other Councils. Nevertheless an economic downturn means more vulnerable and disatvantaged needing support - we have to be clear that funding of voluntary groups will continue in this area. Apols I was also going to write more re grants but I'll point you to SDCs website where you can see it all on the webcast - must go as tea is ready.....

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