Last-ditch attempt to save Bromsgrove community grants
A popular community grants scheme will be cut completely after Conservative councillors rejected pleas to save it. Opposition councillors described the decision as a "kick in the teeth to kind-hearted voluntary groups."
Last week saw councillors from across Bromsgrove debate the Council's budget for the upcoming year. Bromsgrove District Council has been squeezed by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as dwindling grants from central Government. One of the most controversial decisions was to cut a community grant fund which provides small grants to voluntary groups to deliver projects and activities that benefit local residents.
The scheme was originally set up using funding from the Government's New Homes Bonus Scheme. Last year the council topped up £12,000 New Homes Bonus funding with £68,000 Covid funding to create an £80,000 pot to support local communities. The programme was oversubscribed, and the Council was not able to award all the bids. However, a total of £79,898 was allocated to over 20 good causes, including rehabilitation services, counselling sessions and community safety initiatives.
This year the Government granted Bromsgrove Council £363,000 in New Homes Bonus funding but none of it has been allocated to a dedicated grant scheme that the community can bid for.
Prior to last week's council meeting a group of independent and Liberal Democrat councillors appealed to the Conservatives to save the grant which represents less than 1% of the council's total annual budget. It also pales into insignificance when compared to the £14.5 million recently awarded to the district from the Levelling up Fund. After negotiations failed, the independent and Lib Dem groups used the full council meeting on Wednesday 23 February to table an amendment to reinstate £55,000 for the grant scheme. The amendment was opposed by the Conservatives which means the grant scheme will be scrapped this year.
The amendment was proposed by councillor Charlie Hotham from the Bromsgrove Independents East Group. He said he: "agreed with 99.8% of the budget but felt the community grants scheme was just too precious to be lost." The motion was seconded by Lib Dem councillor Siobhan Robison who said: "I'm appalled these good causes will no longer be able to appeal to the District Council's community fund for help. This is a kick in the teeth to our kind-hearted local voluntary groups who deserve better." The amendment was also backed by the Bromsgrove Independents West Group whose leader Councillor Steve Colella said: "Yes the budget is tight, but the Council managed to find additional funds to support IT projects, so flexibility can be found when the political will is there. I am so disappointed for the residents that will now lose out."