Council grants awards probed

By David LennardSENIOR district councillors are to investigate the way grants are allocated after a number of organisations have been left in financial trouble following cuts in this year's budget.

By David Lennard

SENIOR district councillors are to investigate the way grants are allocated after a number of organisations have been left in financial trouble following cuts in this year's budget.

Waveney District Council has slashed its grants budget from £310,301 in 2003/2004 to £243,039 as part of its overall budget strategy.

That left many charities and organisations throughout north Suffolk in severe financial trouble as they had been expecting assistance from the district council.


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Among the organisations affected are the Southwold Summer Theatre group, which had applied for a grant of £6,000, and Halesworth Museum that had applied for £1,000.

Both organisations were among a large group that will not be receiving any grant aid from the district council this year.

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Stephen Chilvers, a member of the district council's ruling executive, admitted many hard decisions on grant allocations hadhad to be made.

“The panel realised that many applications, which had previously received funding, would not get any funds this year. This was inevitable with the reduced budget,” he said.

Next week the council's scrutiny committee will debate the issue after the matter was “called in” for further discussions.

Brian Hunter, a former Labour leader of the district council and a current member of the scrutiny committee, wrote to chief executive Mairi McLean to request that grant allocations should be included on the committee's next agenda.

“I am concerned that more consultation and dialogue should have taken place with bodies and organisations that requested a grant aid,” he said.

“In particular it seems that no account was taken in asking requesting organisations how a less amount of grant would affect their local service provision or the aims of that particular organisation.

“Indeed, some organisations featured in round one of the grant allocation process only found out the amount of their award through the local press.”

Although the scrutiny committee will debate the allocation of grants, it is not intended to hold up the awards already approved and organisations that have been unsuccessful this year will not have any decisions overturned.

Janet Huckle, publicity officer for Halesworth Museum, said she was “stunned” to lose out on the £1,000 grant.

“We will be carrying on this summer and the museum will be open, but we will have to have an emergency meeting in six months' time to see if we can carry on,” she added.

david.lennard@eadt.co.uk

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