Community projects get help from Chester's councillors

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Chester First)

COUNCILLORS in the Chester area splashed almost £450,000 of their members’ grants on community projects last year.

But latest figures show a pot of more than £310,000 earmarked for wards across the borough remains unspent.

Summer playschemes, railway station fencing, an arts festival and a tennis court refurbishment were among the projects funded.

Every councillor on Cheshire West and Chester Council receives a personal allocation of £10,000 at the beginning of the financial year to be spent in their wards.

It was revealed on Wednesday members invested a total of £456,436.65 during 2013/14, making 395 individual awards to 265 organisations.

A total of £310,564.70 was not used – and will be carried forward into the current financial year.

Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton, executive member for resources, said: “Members’ budgets have enabled members to be effective in their communities, to break logjams, to make things happen, to help good causes and to feel thoroughly useful and make a tangible contribution in their community.

“It is mostly match-funding so the money we give as members generates a whole lot more. I think it is a very good scheme.

“This report shows an underspend but please bear in mind there are spends pending. This money is required, and it is being used.”

Chester members spent a total of £96,363.32 in their communities. One award saw £13,000 allocated to resurface Westminster Park tennis courts.

In Ellesmere Port, members awarded £92,226.32 to local causes. A grant of £2,951 was given towards the first Arts Festival in conjunction with Trinity Church. Rural members contributed £107,658.08 which included £500 for fencing at Frodsham Railway Station.

Cllr Ben Powell, shadow finance spokesman, said: “I support member budgets but I do feel there is a need for greater scrutiny of how the money is spent.

“If you give money to a community group to buy equipment, how do you know that equipment has been purchased? I think that is a valid question when we are dealing with taxpayers’ money.”

Any community group, organisation or individual can apply to their local councillor for aid with funding for a project.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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