Friday, 12 October 2018

Tempers flare over Venture funding bid and corruption claim

Tonight’s Caia Park community council meeting saw a fiery exchange between community councillors over discussions about a funding application from the Venture for £14,000. The council, which is usually chaired by Venture Manager Cllr Malcolm King, had received the grant application following a previous bid for £30,000 for play sessions being rejected recently due to a lack of detail.

Cllr Malcolm Kings Labour colleague Cllr Brian Cameron stepped in to Chair the discussion following Cllr King declaring a conflict of interest due to being employed by the organisation applying, along with another Cllr declaring an interest for the same reason.

A discussion ensued with queries about Councillors conflicts of interest over the item given there were several members employed by or linked to the organisation applying for funding.

Plaid Cllr Carrie Harper addressed the meeting and said:

“I’ll start for the record by saying that every member of this council has been a supporter of the Venture, numerous funding applications have received support over the years that have likely amounted to hundreds of thousands of pounds. We’ve approved a separate one just tonight for the annual bonfire event and everyone was happy to support that.We all voice support for the services provided and the contribution made by the staff there to our community."

"However, I have several issues with this application. We have all agreed to set a grant budget of £10,000 for this financial year, about half of that has already been spent and we have a policy to cap grants for each organisation to £2,500 per year. It’s therefore completely inappropriate for the Chair of this council to submit a grant bid for £14,000 being well aware of those rules. In fact he was advised that this was not an appropriate route to take by our clerk but chose to disregard that advice."

"I also have to put on record my concerns that members of this council have been put in an awful situation by this behaviour. If another organisation had put this application in, it wouldn’t have even made the agenda, we’d have written back to them to explain that it exceeded the maximum amount available."

"As community councillors we are responsible for an annual budget of just under a quarter of a million pounds. People in Caia Park quite rightly have an expectation that we will ensure that funding is managed properly and that all the relevant policies and procedures will be applied fairly, to ensure that every local organisation has the same opportunity to apply for funding. By putting this application in, we’re being asked to breach our agreed policies, for an organisation that is run by the Chair. It looks awful."

"We also know that to continue funding the Venture on the same basis next year will cost £30,000 and that the community council is already overspent. The only feasible way to fund this next year is to put people’s council tax up in Caia Park significantly, I will not support that."

"I also want to put my concerns on the record that certain members of this council have been pressured to vote a certain way tonight. I don’t make that claim lightly but that is corrupt. This has got to stop. You can’t just throw the rule book out when it suits and I won’t have Plaid Cymru Councillors tarnished by this behaviour if you decide to vote this through tonight."

"I propose we don’t support this bid as it is because it breaches our grant allocation policy."

The discussion then escalated with an accusation made by Cllr Steve Jones of ‘game playing’ to pass tax payers money to the Chair Cllr Malcolm King. It escalated further following this into an even more heated exchange between Cllr Jones and the temprary Chair Cllr  Brian Cameron. His frustration at the complete disregard for due process was physicly visible. Due to the escalating tension a time out break was called.

When Councillors returned, Labour Cllr Colin Powell, proposed that £14,000 was taken from the dwindling council reserves to fund the Venture. This was passed with a vote of  5- 4.

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