In 2018, after years of to-ing and fro-ing, South Kesteven Councillors agreed to establish an annual budget of £1,000 for each Member to allocate to projects of direct benefit people in their ward. Yes, at the time, I argued that this might be perceived as a bribe and a photo-opportunity in the year before the SKDC election but with hindsight it was a welcome u-turn by the Tories.
The second year of ward budgets has just concluded and I am pleased to be able to publish the details of how councillors have spent and, in some cases, not spent their allocation.
From the £56,000 budget, a total of £49,882.02 was awarded by 53 councillors and paid to 97 seperate organisations. These included sports clubs, food banks and village festivals.
The organisation that received the highest amount of grant funding was the Butterfield Centre in Bourne which received a combined total of £2,633 from four different councillors. Eighteen different organisations received grants of £1,000 or more.
There were seven grants of £100 or less. The smallest grant was the £50 paid to the Rotary Club of Bourne which was one of the four organisations sponsored by Cllr Anna Kelly (Ind).
Although the scheme was set up to give councillors a funding stream to support grassroots projects run by community groups, organisations, charities etc across the district, over £8,000 was paid to town and parish councils across the district. This is a reasonable acknowledgement that in many villages parish councils are the best available constituted organisation for handling the finances of small projects.
Each grant was supposed to be awarded for a specific project or initiative and not to be used for either ongoing revenue costs or regular events (unless the funding relates to a new aspect).
Some Councillors decided not to allocate their budgets. Three councillors, all Conservative, did not allocate any grants at all. Some others did not use all the available grant. This, of course, is their prorogative and they don’t have to explain their decision to anyone. It is possible that they received no sensible applications; alternatively they might think it is in their residents’ best interests to leave the money in the central coffers at SKDC. Personally, I am exceedingly keen to repatriate as much money from Grantham back to Deeping as possible.
This year I shared our £1,000 among four grant recipients. These were:
- £250 to Deepings United FC for stretcher equipment. The team also received funding via the other two councillors for Market and West Deeping. (This doesn’t come close to reimbursing them for the unfair and extortionate fees they are charged by SKDC’s Leisure Centre for rent of pitches but that’s another story)
- £334 to Bourne Deeping Hockey Club towards new equipment. The team also received funding from the other two Independent councillors in the Deepings. (Sadly, the small grant does not compensate for the disaster of having nowhere in South Kesteven to train after the Deepings all-weather pitch was condemned, but that’s another story)
- £200 to the Rotary Club of the Deepings towards the costs of the Deepings 10k and Fun Run (whenever they might be).
- £216 to Churches Together in the Deepings for their ‘Open the Book’ schools project.
I have published information about the other grants awarded during 2019/20 year elsewhere on the DeepingDo blog.
In March this year, less than 12 months after the election, councillors voted to slash the budget down to just £500 but maybe this was down to concerns about pressures on council budgets which no-one knew about the previous year? In any case, it doesn’t matter because the world has changed since March and the Council Leader has unilaterally (and rightly imho) decided to put it back up to £1,000 to allow us to support the hyper-local organisations which are supporting our communities through Coronavirus. Furthermore, the County Council has also urgently reinstated its ward budgets of £3,000 for allocation by each of its 70 individual councillors and, yes, it is the year before the county council elections but this is definitely no time to be cynical!