ALMOST £600,000 of taxpayers’ cash has been dished out to hundreds of worthy causes by councillors – leading to calls to extend the scheme further.
A Worcestershire County Council project allowing politicians to hand out cash to suitable organisations is being lauded as a major success.
Since 2012, all 57 elected councillors have been allocated up to £11,000, which they can make available locally.
The money comes with rules stating it cannot benefit a business or one individual, and all spending is kept on a public database for anyone to see.
A new report on the spending for 2013/14 shows that £588,823 was made available and £561,700 was spent.
It benefited 654 organisations including youth movements, literary festivals, respite care, football clubs, school activities, toddler groups, cricket, rugby and swimming clubs, youth centres, mentoring, dance workshops, BMX track repairs and countless art projects.
The scheme was debated during a meeting of the overview, scrutiny and performance board at County Hall, where calls were made to extend it further.
Councillor Richard Udall, the board’s chairman, said: “My big concern is that the criteria is too tight – I for one have had people come to me and ask for support to be retrained, but I’ve been unable to support them because you can’t help an individual.
“I’ve had requests from businesses I can’t support too.”
Other councillors disagreed with his view and said they were happy for the rules to stay the same.
Councillor Ken Pollock said: “It’s an absolutely brilliant scheme, it’s first class.
But I must disagree with the chairman, if an individual wants training surely there are other institutions which can help, and the same goes for businesses.
“My guiding principle is to give small amounts to as many organisations as possible, and to do it in such a way that they don’t get a lifelong commitment for more, so for example, sports equipment for clubs, which tend to have a long shelf life.”
Councillor Bob Banks said: “This is an excellent scheme which has, by and large, operated with a minimum level of bureaucracy.”
The remaining £23,701 unspent from the last financial year has now been rolled forward into 2014/15.