Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Barnet, a Borough of Contradictions

At tonight's Policy and Resources Committee the main feature will be the report in to Governance failure and the departure "by mutual consent" of the Monitoring Officer. However there are a few other items on the agenda which I hope do not get overlooked.

In particular there is a report on the introduction of Area Committee Budgets. This plan proposes to give each of the three area committee a budget of £100,000 per annum to give away in grants. The total of £1.2 million over the four years of this scheme will come from reserves. The criteria for these grants is that they should be one-off and do not require on going funding. Therefore they cannot be used for revenue support. Applications should be made via councillors and they will act as 'gatekeepers' for applications. The indicative range for the value of awards will be between £200 and £9,999.

The priorities for the awards are set out in the report and are included below:

"As a starting point, each application must demonstrate that the proposal supports one or more of the Council’s priority outcomes, as set out in the Corporate Plan. Currently, these are:
• To maintain a well-designed, attractive and accessible place, with sustainable infrastructure across the borough.
• To maintain the right environment for a strong and diverse local economy.
• To create better life chances for children and young people across the borough.
• To sustain a strong partnership with the local NHS, so that families and individuals can maintain and improve their physical and mental health.
• To promote a healthy, active, independent and informed over 55 population in the borough to encourage and support our residents to age well.
• To promote family and community well-being and encourage engaged, cohesive and safe communities."

Now you may be saying this sound like a good idea. However, at a time when funding for essential services is being cut it seems bizarre to be giving away £1.2 million in small grants. For example the priorities state that these grants should support the objective to create better life chances for children yet this week Moss Hall Nursery is facing a 50% funding cut   It also states that they want  these grants to promote a healthy active and informed over 55 population yet the leisure budget is being slashed. They want to promote a strong partnership with the NHS yet they are doing their best to drive Your Choice Barnet into the ground by cutting staff pay and reducing services to those with physical and learning disabilities.

In my opinion if Barnet has £1.2 million going spare it would be better used supporting the essential service that are being cut than to come up with vanity projects in the hope of buying votes at the next election.

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