Call to create community chest for unspent council cash in Lincolnshire
A COUNCILLOR has called for unspent community grant money to be made available to other councillors for projects in their wards.
Councillor Steve Palmer put a motion to East Lindsey District Council that unspent councillors' community initiative scheme grant money should be made available for other members to bid for and added to their allocation.
East Lindsey has 60 councillors who each have £2,000 to award to causes in their wards.
In 2011/12 £6,382 of community grant money went unspent.
Councillor Palmer, who was elected in October in a by-election for the Sutton on Sea North ward, said: "The councillors' community initiative scheme is superb and an effective way of helping to start community projects. I have been told there is normally an underspend.
"This should be put in a pot to enable other councillors to bid for it to use in their communities.
"We may find from this that there would automatically be no underspend in future years."
Councillor Terry Knowles who supported the motion said: "This money we give to our communities is very well spent and it is vital. To have it not spent in the community is wrong and we have to put it right."
Some councillors were surprised there was an underspend with many saying they could easily use their allowance twice over from the number of projects requesting support.
Councillor Neil Cooper said: "It is incumbent on all of us to find projects for the money. Small amounts of money do make a huge amount of difference in the community.
"I am amazed that councillors are struggling to spend it."
But Councillor Steve O'Dare said the underspend is not down to councillors not supporting community projects, but down to constraints such as deadlines and projects falling through if they need to match funding.
The East Lindsey Labour group supported the sentiment behind the motion but did not want to see councillors enter a bidding war for the extra cash.
They called for the council to nominate an agreed community organisation and suggested the community larder initiatives in the district.
Councillor John Upsall, portfolio holder for finance, said the underspend is not 'lost money' as it has secured the £2,000 allowance for each councillor this financial year as it was likely to be cut to £1,500.
He said: "It is not lost money as it was transferred back into the budget, otherwise the allowances would have been cut down. I'm sorry but I cannot give it twice."
Councillor Fiona Martin, who is chairman of the authority's overview committee, said she was unhappy they were being asked to make council policy 'on the hoof.'
After hearing the debate, Councillor Steve Palmer later withdrew the motion to enable it to be properly looked into by the Overview Committee with the view that the council could then formalise a new policy.