Measures will be put in place to ensure the money is spent correctly by each councillor, cabinet members were told at their meeting this month, after questions were raised about the “streamlined” process being proposed as part of the new scheme.
And senior councillors welcomed the simplified approach to cut bureaucracy for community organisations.
A report to this month’s cabinet meeting said: “Voluntary and community organisations vary enormously both in terms of their size and structures and how they support local communities. Whilst many rely on significant grant funding to deliver key support, for some more grass root organisations a small amount of funding such as £50 towards a new cooker for a lunch club can make a massive difference.
“Some of these groups are not eligible for most funding because they are not charities or constituted organisations. Elected members are often well placed to identify local needs and are in touch with grass root organisations operating in their ward.
“A councillor community grant fund has previously been considered by councillors but has not progressed due to the fact that if the scheme is supported by officers the administrative cost, in proportion to the funding available, would not represent value for money. A more streamlined scheme is now being proposed with a minimum of administration.
“To make it as easy as possible for grassroots organisations to apply it would be supported by a simple on line application form focussing on the purpose of the organisation and what they need funding for. Any funding awarded would be paid into a bank account in the name of the group or to an organisation who agrees to accept the funding and passport it to the group. Where this is not possible, it can be paid to an individual where it can be shown the individual is acting on behalf of the local community, for example through a letter of endorsement from a local organisation.
“If each member is given £300 for their ward then £14,100 would be available across all wards. At this stage this funding has been taken out of the £177k larger Voluntary and Community sector funding scheme (VCS), currently open for applications.”
The new community grant scheme is set to be piloted for two years, starting in June. It will be open for applications between June and October.
Cabinet member Councillor Andrew Smith said: “It’s a great concept and I really encourage it. I would like to think that in future years we can increase the amount as well.
“We’re trying to streamline this as much as possible, and I get that. To that end we are paying the £300 into each member’s bank account to be able to distribute as they see fit. What are the checks and balances at the end of the year to ensure the £300 has either been spent on the correct things or not spent?
Councillor Ashley Yeates, cabinet member for community engagement, responded: “At the end of each year each member will sent to us a list and proof of where they have used the funding.
“This comes under a members’ code of conduct, so if they step outside of that code of conduct they’ll lose their position as a councillor. We’re also going to be conducting training as soon as possible and explaining where they can and can’t use this funding.
“There will be paperwork – the people putting forward for this funding will have to fill out a form. There would be checks that we can do and there will be spot checks going on. There will be transparency
“We can also refresh people’s minds of where else there are funding channels – there are other funds out there. Hopefully this little amount of money can make a big difference for certain people, but also the member will be able to point people in the right direction.”