Three groups to share �100,000

IT may not rival the furore surrounding the election of George Bush as American President in 2000, but a vote on where �100,000 community funding should be spent has been marred by controversy.

IT may not rival the worldwide political storm surrounding the election of George Bush as American President in 2000.

But a vote on where �100,000 of community funding should be spent has been caught up in no less controversy for residents in one Essex town.

Rival bidders in the seaside town of Walton-on-the-Naze were hoping to win major investment from Essex County Council’s �100k Community Chest.

Three groups were hoping to get hold of the money – set up to benefit community groups across the county – for their different projects.

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Walton Sea Cadets want to extend their existing building, the town’s yacht club hopes to extend its facilities, while the third project could see the creation of a nature trail for people to enjoy.

Voting papers were distributed throughout Walton to let the public decide where the money should be spent but Essex County Council started receiving complaints from residents that they had not received one.

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As a result, the voting deadline was extended by two weeks, papers were put online for residents to download and a ballot request hotline was also set-up.

But despite the efforts to calm the storm, there was still anxiety from community groups that the ballot “would not accurately reflect residents’ wishes”.

So now, the councillor in charge of the Community Chest has ruled the money will be split three ways, meaning everyone’s a winner.

John Jowers said he hoped people would understand the reasons for his decision, and sent out a reminder to any dissenting voices that the money would still benefit Walton.

He said: “My vision for The People’s �100k Community Chest was to mobilise residents and empower them to make decisions that affect their community.

“However, due to consternation among local people, it has been my decision to divide the grant equally between all three finalists.

“At the same time, I do not want the community to lose sight of the fact that the cash will ultimately benefit the local area, enabling community groups to change their neighbourhoods for the better.

“And to that end, I hope all residents feel happy with the outcome.”

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