Council's grants process under review

By Jenni DixonCOUNCIL grants to voluntary organisations may be ring fenced after many charitable bodies were left in the lurch after losing out in a round of awards.

By Jenni Dixon

COUNCIL grants to voluntary organisations may be ring fenced after many charitable bodies were left in the lurch after losing out in a round of awards.

Waveney District Council's scrutiny committee has drawn up a list of recommendations on how the authority's grant allocation panel distributes money to voluntary and community bodies next year.

This year, almost 40 organisations in north Suffolk had their annual grants cut completely - including Jill Freud and Company's £6,000 request for its non-profit making Southwold Summer Theatre and the Halesworth and District Museum's £1,000 application for its running costs.


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Scrutiny committee chairman, Sally Spore, said: “We will put forward the idea of ring fencing a certain amount of money for voluntary organisations.

“If the council also receive a windfall, we will go back to these organisations as a priority.”

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Janet Huckle, publicity officer at Halesworth Museum, was one of 12 representatives from organisations who spoke to the scrutiny committee at its meeting.

“I was not impressed, but it was good organisations could go along and make points for the future,” she said.

However, she had doubts over whether the small museum - which carries out a great deal of community and educational work - will remain open if it did not receive help with its revenue.

District councillor Brian Hunter, who led the call-in of the executive's decision on this matter, said: “I am very pleased that the scrutiny committee had the opportunity to discuss this issue in detail.

“The council's grants are very important to the organisations that receive them and it is important that we are clear about how our decisions on these awards are arrived at.”

Stephen Chilvers, chairman of the grant allocation panel, said the process it had followed to arrive at its decisions - 86 applications for grants totalling more than £360,000 had been made against a budget allocation of just over £243,000 - and admitted some difficult decisions had been made and inevitably some organisations had lost out.

In addition, a grants officer will be employed by the council by the end of May to help this year's unlucky organisations find funding.

The recommendations made by the scrutiny committee will be reported to the council's executive on May 11.

jenni.dixon@eadt.co.uk

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