Shaftesbury Council Decides Which Community Groups It Will Support Financially

Shaftesbury Town Council has awarded around £26,500 in grant funding to 29 local projects, clubs and organisations.

Two groups that applied for funds won’t receive any money but most applicants will receive a sizeable proportion of their requested amount. Cllr Peter Yeo shared strong views for and against two of the applications, as Alfred reports.

A number of community projects have been given the ‘green light’ after councillors made their annual community grant awards last night. The total funding requested exceeded £53,500, but there was £30,000 available.

“The majority of councillors were happy to pay the grants that have been decided upon by the working group,” Mayor Tim Cook told ThisIsAlfred.com. “We obviously have a way to go to be able to satisfy everybody. Unfortunately, that will never happen, but we can get closer by tweaking the process, so that we are not only as transparent as possible, but we help as many organisations as possible.”

Mayor Tim Cook

Shaftesbury Arts Centre received the largest award of £5,000. They had requested £10,000 to fund a lift, which would offer access to all floors. Cllr Peter Yeo opposed the recommendation of that award, telling Councillors that he had studied the Arts Centre’s accounts on the Companies House website. Peter claimed, “They are not hard up. When I looked at their accounts, I was quite amazed to find that they were cash rich, to the tune of about £600,000.”

Cllr Alex Chase replied that it was, “unfair to penalise a well-run organisation for being well-run.” He pointed out that the Arts Centre had been fundraising for its planned expansion, “for some time.” The next phase of works, scheduled to start in July, will cost £100,000. The following stage could require over £1million. The money in their bank account will go towards this redevelopment. Alex also highlighted the Art Centre’s membership of 500 people.

Cllr Alex Chase

“Although it’s a charity, they have got a lot of money in their account,” said Cllr Peter Yeo, after the meeting. “In my opinion, they didn’t really need £5,000 of Shaftesbury taxpayers money to help towards a disabled lift. In my opinion, there were other causes which were much more deserving of that money. And obviously, I was outvoted.”

Peter had questioned whether Alex should be allowed to take part in making the decision about this award. Cllr Yeo twice pointed out that Cllr Chase is a director of Shaftesbury Arts Centre. Town Clerk Claire Commons stepped in to confirm that Alex was entitled to take part in the discussions because he had declared his interest and Alex receives no personal financial benefit from his involvement.

Deputy Mayor Piers Brown questioned the Tourist Information Centre’s request for cash to meet its utility bills. The TIC had asked for £1,000 and the awards panel had recommended making that grant. Piers said he didn’t like funding running costs. He prefers buying one-off items that make a lasting difference. He gave the Youth Club’s grant request for a wheelchair swing as an example of a purchase that was ‘a no-brainer’ because it would provide a benefit for years to come.

Cllr Peter Yeo

Cllr Yeo spoke out again, this time to support the applicant, the TIC. Peter argued that the Tourist Information Centre provided community services. The meeting heard that the majority of people visiting their Bell Street office were locals. “I had strong views on that being funded because they are a hub for people to go and get their electric tokens, for parcel delivery and things like that. So they do a lot more than just tourist information. I’ve looked at their accounts, and they have very little funding and I think last year, they actually made a loss of £1,000. Yet they provide multi-role services to the community and their actual overall running costs around only £18,000 a year,” said Cllr Yeo.

The TIC was awarded £1,000 and the Arts Centre was given £5,000.

Swans Trust wanted £750 to purchase CCTV. Recently, residents have voiced their dismay on social media after bunting was ripped down in the courtyard late at night. They won’t get the money because they won’t need it. Cllr Chase proposed that Shaftesbury Town Council should add Swans Yard to its existing camera network.

Shaftesbury TIC

St James Church had asked for £1,000 towards the £15,000 restoration of the east window. The grants panel had suggested a £500 donation, but Town Clerk Claire Commons advised that there were two pieces of local government legislation relating to funding churches and ecclesiastical bodies which meant, ‘it wasn’t in the Council’s gift’ to make that award.

Councillors decided to continue to waive or reduce charges for Town Hall booking by some groups. It costs £118 to hire the Town Hall for four hours and these bookings generate £28,000 for the Town Council annually. Some local, not-for-profit groups are eligible for a 50% discount whilst a few town organisations have free use of the facilities.

Piers Brown was concerned that there were no standard rules. He felt that either every town group should get the space for free or every organisation should pay. Council staff had produced a list of free users which include Shaftesbury Fringe, the Snowdrop Festival, the Westminster Memorial Hospital League of Friends, Shaftesbury Civic Society, the Open Spaces Group and the Carnival committee. That equates to £3,582 in ‘lost’ revenue.

Councillors agreed to continue the current charging or free use arrangements but the Mayor, Tim Cook, says this will be reassessed next year. “We need to get value for money, but I believe that our first and foremost priority is to serve the people of the town. If we can do that by offering subsidised or no fees for use of our Town Hall, I’m happy to look at it.”

So, which other groups were awarded cash?

The First Shaftesbury Scout group was given a full grant of £190 to buy a tea urn and catering teapots. The Friends of Donkey Field Community Orchard was awarded £87 to meet their public liability insurance. Home Start North Dorset received all of the £1,500 they had requested to train a local volunteer.

Kipling Carnival Club asked for £600 to subsidise their public liability insurance and was given £400. The North Dorset Club for the Visually Impaired wanted £300 funding towards a summer outing and they got it. The North Dorset Rugby Club had asked for £5,000 for a storage building and machinery. They were granted £1,000.

The Father’s House initiative ‘Open House’, that supports the needy and people facing extreme poverty was awarded the £1,000 applied for. Read Easy, a voluntary Group that assists adults who want to gain or improve reading skills received their full request of £660.

The St James’ based community space, the Rolt Millennium Green, was given the £200 that they wanted for liability insurance. Longmead-based charity Hope had requested £4,500 towards their running costs. They were allocated £1,000.

Rolt Millennium Green

The Bowling Club received the £500 that they requested for CCTV. Cllr Matthew Welch declared an interest in the club as a member. Matthew said that anti-social behaviour issues around Barton Hill were ‘getting worse’, adding that an 18-year-old had been caught urinating on their mailbox.

Shaftesbury Car Link operates a dial-a-car service, often taking people to hospital appointments. They wanted £1,000 to train new drivers. They were awarded £800. Shaftesbury Carnival received its full of request of £500 for road closure and diversion signs. Shaftesbury Cricket Club wants to resurface its car park and had hoped to receive £1,000. The club was granted £750.

The Guides will receive the £1,000 they asked for so they can complete the inside of their new hall. Shaftesbury Football Club wants to buy a heavy-duty grass roller and football kit for under 18s. They also need additional training equipment. They requested £5,500 and were given £500.

Shaftesbury Fringe asked for £4,400 pounds to fund its programme and was awarded £3,000. The Shaftesbury Municipal Almshouse charity wants to modernise Chubbs Almshouse and convert 20 bedsits into 23 one-bedroom flats. They requested £5,000 towards the £1.7 million scheme and were granted £1,000.

Shaftesbury Primary School will have £500 to spend on their annual fireworks, as requested. Shaftesbury Rotary Club will be given the £500 they wanted to pay for music acts in the Abbey grounds during Gold Hill Fair.

The town Silver Band will be given the £500 they asked for to replace instruments and uniforms. Shaftesbury Twinning Association wants to buy a gazebo and needs funding for a visit to Shaftesbury by residents of French twin-town of Brionne, as well as a future trip by Shaftesbury residents to our German twin, Lindlar. Their £1,000 request has been met.

The Tree Group will get the £260 they requested to fund a new tree walk leaflet. The Youth Club will get the money that they wanted for a wheelchair swing and sports equipment. They will receive a cheque for £950.

Steps in Time’s dancers are attending Europe’s largest folk festival in Frankenberg in Germany. They asked for £1,000 to cover costs and were awarded £500. The League of Friends of the Westminster Hospital have been granted just under £1,950, which will go towards the £48,000 needed for a wheelchair accessible electric vehicle for their community rehabilitation team. It is the full amount that they requested.

A new group that wants to create a Shaftesbury running trail was unsuccessful in its £500 request. That leaves £3,400 unspent in the ‘kitty’ for future community grants.

Both the Community Choir and Planet Shaftesbury will be supported ‘in kind’ with use of the Town Hall space.