Councillor slams county decision to axe grant scheme
A WEST Lancashire County Councillor has slammed a decision by the county’s ruling Conservative group to scrap the Local Members Grant Scheme which, he says, will see community groups in the borough missing out on £24,000.
Under the scheme, every county councillor, regardless of political affiliation, had £3,000 to award to organisations in their own areas annually.
In West Lancs this amounted to a total of £24,000. Among the groups to benefit were the elderly, veterans’ associations, disabled groups, community volunteers and sports organisation.
During the last financial year, county councillors across Lancashire gave approval to almost 500 grants. Most were one-offs of relatively low value, typically £250 to £500 per award, and were not used for core funding but for specific projects, special occasions and equipment.
The county council has defended the decision to axe the scheme as it seeks to make cutbacks in the face of budget reductions.
However, County Councillor John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour group, accused the administration of targeting the most vulnerable.
Cllr. Fillis, who represents Skelmersdale East on the county council, said: “l’m proud to say that we have been able to support so many great people over the years who have worked not for themselves but for others. They will continue to do their best, but we are asking more and more from volunteers with less resources to back them up.
“This move is typical of the Conservatives, cutting thousands of pounds of funding from local volunteer groups supporting the most vulnerable in the community, who are just trying to do their bit to help others.
“The council claims that alternative grants are available but as we all know they have already been cut.
“In the grand scheme of things £24,000 is not a lot of money to the county council but £250 for a local voluntary group can help them organise a trip for armed forces veterans or buy sports equipment for young people and even a cooker to prepare meals for the elderly and others at Christmas.
“When people see the government blowing billions of pounds on tax dodgers, buying votes from the DUP and Brexit, you can clearly see that’s its ordinary people paying the price of Conservative cuts.”
Leader of Lancashire County Council, Councillor Geoff Driver, said: “We have made no secret of the fact that the county council faces an extremely serious financial challenge. We know that we will face a funding gap of £161m in 2021/22 and that we will have spent the county council’s available reserves within the next two years.
“It is imperative that we put plans in place to make the necessary savings to secure a sustainable future for the county council, and the vital services that our most vulnerable residents rely on.
“The total county-wide cost of these grants is £252,000 every year and it must be seen in the context of the need for us to find £160m savings in the next four years.
“It is a pity that, as ever, Labour county councillors cannot see that, nor do they suggest alternative savings.”