Express & Star

'A little enthusiastic': Dudley councillors get clarity on grant funding

Dudley councillors’ promises that community grants will return later this year were "enthusiastic" according to one cabinet member during a stormy meeting.

Dudley Council House. Credit: Dudley Council.

After questions at recent community forum meetings in north Dudley and Stourbridge, residents had been told by Conservative councillors Damien Corfield, Ian Kettle and Dave Borley that small grants had been frozen but would be reinstated.

At a meeting of the full council on Monday, Labour’s Councillor Judy Foster quizzed cabinet member Councillor Ian Bevan on whether these claims were accurate.

Councillor Bevan said: “There is some confusion, it would appear some of my colleagues have been a little enthusiastic.

“Subject to formal council decision on the fourth of March the annual new allocation of £240,000, equivalent to £10,000 per ward, will cease from the first of April 2024.”

Councillor Bevan added there was an outstanding amount of unallocated funding, which coincidently is £240,000, that was in an earmarked reserve.

He told councillors the money could not be used due to current spending controls but the council’s director of finance planned to leave it in reserve until controls were lifted.

There were bad tempered exchanges later in the meeting during a debate on a motion from Lib Dem councillor Ryan Priest.

The motion called on the council to take more action against the use of off-road motorcycles in public parks and write to Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) expressing dissatisfaction with the PCC’s response to the issue.

Labour councillor Tim Crumpton proposed an amendment to the motion which was defeated before the Conservative group proposed a further amendment.

After the meeting’s chairperson, Mayor Andrea Goddard, called a vote on the Tory amendment, Labour complained not enough members had been allowed to speak against it.

Councillor Goddard ruled there had been adequate discussion on the subject during debate on their amendment before telling Councillor Cat Eccles: “Please stop shaking your microphone at me”.

The mayor then told Councillor Eccles “I think you should leave the chamber” before threatening to suspend the meeting.

She continued: “Do you wish for me to suspend the meeting? Because I will unless you leave the chamber.

“You have had no respect for my decision, respect the decision or leave the chamber.”

After further discussion, Councillor Eccles apologised and the meeting continued however time for debate on the motion had expired and no vote was taken.

Councillor Priest claims there was political manoeuvring at play.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We need real action in the Dudley borough to tackle the anti-social use of off-road bikes and the selfish yobs making people’s lives a misery.

“Instead, Labour attempted to gut the Lib Dem motion of all practical action, and when it became clear they wouldn’t have the numbers to do that, they ran the clock down on the meeting so that we couldn’t vote at all.”

Councillor Eccles denied any political shenanigans from Labour but took a shot at the original motion from Councillor Priest.

"The motion did not properly address the issue of off-road bikes, police tell us the issue is residents not correctly reporting it," said Councillor Eccles.

“The motion was making political points, we weren’t running down the clock, we just wanted our points to be heard.”

Labour group leader Councillor Pete Lowe added: “It is simply not true we ran the clock down. Indeed from my understanding no Labour member had even spoken on the Conservative amendment.”