The future of local community grants is in doubt again after Conservative Cabinet Member Jim Currie told a members' briefing that the community chest pot would rely on being able to make savings in grants to other groups. That statement caused a certain amount of panic in officer circles and Cllr Currie had to scuttle from the room to check his facts. When he returned it was to say that grants were in the budget after all, but that the money to fund them had yet to be found.
The community chest grants are still therefore in doubt although I have been told by officers that they are confident they will find the money. But it is worrying that, this close to budget day (next Tuesday) the Cabinet Member in charge doesn't understand the detail of the budget he is in charge of.
In September the community chest grant pot was revived having been on hold since the election. Cabinet Member Lance Kennedy said that the full year amount for each councillor to distribute was £6,600, but that because the time it was covering was shortened, the amount for this year would be just £2195. He said that he would be asking Cabinet to reinstate the full amount from April 1st.
That appears to have been an April Fool as no one is talking about £6600 any more.
So why are community chest grants important? Mainly they matter because they are a way of supporting small community groups with projects that matter locally. Cornwall Council as a whole is far too centrist and bureaucratic to decide what should be funded at this level and so the community chest is given to each local councillor to give out in their ward or local area (and by doing this it means each area gets the same amount). In Launceston, I have already funded the Forum to help them refresh the community plan and am about to hand funds to small sports clubs and for local events (more details soon).
None of these groups would be able to get grants from the Council directly - especially as they have not been allowed to bid yet.
I trust that, by Tuesday, Cllr Currie and his colleagues will have been able to get everything sorted because many local projects are relying on the funds tnat the council is able to provide.