Plea to restore Welwyn Hatfield community grants

PUBLISHED: 12:27 01 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:27 01 February 2016

Michal Siewniak

Michal Siewniak

Archant

Cash-strapped council chiefs have scrapped a popular scheme that funded useful small-scale community projects.

Welwyn Hatfield Council has decided not to include its Ward Improvement Scheme, also known as the Community Chest Scheme, in its 2016/17 budget.

Under the scheme, councillors for each ward agreed between them how to spend £2,000 on projects to help their constituents.

Lib Dem councillor Michal Siewniak told the WHT: “I am really, really disappointed. I just hope there can be a rethink.”

In his ward of Peartree, Welwyn Garden City, for instance, the money has helped fund English classes for migrants, a health and sports day, a family fun day, and cookery classes, all in the current financial year.

Councillor Siewniak continued: “Local community-based project need very little to make a real difference.”

A spokesman for the Conservative-controlled authority said: “With austerity still biting, it was decided in 2015 during the annual review that this discretionary budget would be needed to meet other demands on the council’s finances.

“The council still offers both small and large grants to groups and individuals who can apply for them.). The small grants are up to £2,000 each but the larger grants are not capped within its specified budget.

“We review our position with grants on an annual basis so the Community Chest scheme could return in the future.”

In 2014/15, she added, the full £2,000 was spent in just 10 of the 17 wards.

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