Call to name and shame councillors who hold back community funds

Elected community representatives who do not spend most of their £10,000 allowance to respond to local needs should be named and shamed, a North Yorkshire Council committee has been told.

A meeting of the authority’s corporate and partnerships committee heard that while the authority’s 90 councillors had distributed some £874,000 of their Locality Budgets last year, there were some members who were holding back the funding from their comunities.

Councillors can use the budgets to support projects or activities that directly promote the social, economic or environmental wellbeing of the communities they represent and are expected to actively promote the scheme within their division.

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Last year 782 recommendations of up to £5,000 were approved, an average of more than eight recommendations per councillor.

North Yorkshire Council's headquarters, County Hall, in NorthallertonNorth Yorkshire Council's headquarters, County Hall, in Northallerton
North Yorkshire Council's headquarters, County Hall, in Northallerton

Some 60 per cent of the funding was committed to projects and activities managed by not-for-profit organisations, 24 per cent to parish and town councils, nine per cent to schools and seven per cent to the council for additional services.

Common grants to communities last year included contributions to King Charles III’s coronation parties and village speed signs, while charities such as Riding for the Disabled also benefited.

Recipients also included Cononley Bowling Club to improve the bowling green, Riccall Tennis Club for security fencing, Thirsk Army Cadets for training rifles, new cricket screens at Burn Cricket Club, a grant to cover the costs for the Angrove Singers annual concerts and the fitting out of a heritage skills workshop for Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.

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Although the majority of members are enthusiastic supporters of the scheme, which will cost the authority up to £900,000 this year, some prominent councillors have questioned some or all of the Locality Budget spending, particularly given the authority’s soaring social care and chiildren’s services bills.

In 2019, Tories on North Yorkshire County Council levelled criticism towards Norton councillor Keane Duncan after it emerged he was the only member of the authority’s 72 who had not spent his Locality Budget, saying giving funds helped local groups attract further grants.

Coun Duncan, who is now North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for highways, at the time said while some members had spent taxpayers’ money on “weird and wonderful” items such as a fountain and Lego, he wanted to keep the funding for frontline services.

However, the meeting heard one councillor brand his colleagues who had not spent most of their community funding “lazy”.

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The council’s previous chairman, Councillor David Ireton, added: “The people who aren’t spending their budget are letting the community they represent down.”

The committee’s chairman, Coun Andrew Williams, said he had been left “scratching his head” as to why some members who had not spent the vast majority of their Locality Budget as he had to turn people away who wanted grants.

He suggested group leaders should be alerted to members who have not spent a substantial amount of their Locality Budget, and that “a repeat offenders’ list” be produced of members who repeatedly did not spend their allocated money.

Coun Williams said: “We could all spend substantially more than £10,000 in our divisions. I think those members who haven’t spent the money should give an explanation as to why they haven’t spent the money and it might encourage them to spend it in future years.”

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