'Discrimination' claim over new grant scheme

October 28 2016

THE new council system for administering community grants has provoked an outcry.

THE new council system for administering community grants has provoked an outcry.

Labour says it "discriminates" against councillors who are active in their wards.

Called the Member Awarded Funding (MAF) scheme, it replaces the old system where councillors voted on funding requests at the authority's now defunct Area Forum meetings.

In February 2016 South Gloucestershire's ruling Conservative group resolved to replace the grants programme with a scheme that gives councillors the power to make awards to projects which benefit residents in their ward.

Under the new arrangements, each of the 70 councillors has £3,000 to award to projects and services before March 31, 2017.

Each councillor can either award all their annual funding to a single organisation or initiative, or divide it amongst a number of agencies. They will also be able to combine their individual fund with other councillors in order to provide greater support to a particular scheme in a given year.

The contentious issue, however, is that councillors who have a formal role on a community group, or who sit on boards which represent community groups, are legally precluded from donating grants to those groups.

One example is C0uncillors Ian Boulton and Shirley Potts who represent the ward of Staple Hill. As chair and vice chair of Staple Hill Regeneration Partnership, they are not allowed by law to make donations to community groups and events which come under the umbrella of the partnership, including Christmas on the Hill.

Councillor Boulton, who leads for Labour on community services, said the result of the new way of allocating funding is discriminatory. 

For further information on Member Award Funding visit South Gloucestershire Council’s website, email grants@southglos.gov.uk or call 01454 865865.