Charity funding will hinge on whims of councillors

Nathalie Thomas

A Surrey council is considering replacing some small grants programmes with a scheme allowing councillors to spend £1,000 each on voluntary groups.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council will vote on Thursday to decide whether to replace small grants programmes worth about £15,000. Savings made elsewhere will add more than £35,000, giving all 51 councillors £1,000 each.

"We wanted a scheme that was very quick and would allow front-line contact between the council member and the organisation," said the scheme's proposer, councillor Julian Ellacott. "As the word implies, grants regimes are often regimes with long deadlines and there's a lot of bureaucracy around them."

Each councillor will be accountable for how the money is used and voluntary groups within each ward will apply to them directly.

"We'll publish the awards through our website and report them through the council's executive committee to ensure transparency," said Ellacott.

Neil Cleeveley, director of information and policy at Navca, said the scheme could be beneficial but only if the money used was additional.

"The small grants programme should be about trying to fill the strategic priorities of the organisation," he said. "There's always a danger that giving it to councillors would mean that it supports the councillor's pet groups rather than things that need to be high priority in the area."

[BR] Charities can buy computers at discounts of up to 45 per cent under an agreement struck last week. The Office of Government Commerce's trading arm, OGCbuying.

solutions, negotiated the deal with 17 suppliers.

The National Childbirth Trust has named and shamed McDonald's for being the least friendly place in Britain to breast-feed. The trust asked mothers to nominate culprits for its Booby Prize, sponsored by Unison.

The Centre for Strategy and Communication has opened a voluntary sector training centre in Manchester. The centre, set up 10 years ago in London, will run courses at Manchester Conference Centre. There are 10,000 not-for-profit organisations in Manchester.

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