Lib Dems and Tories slam fund freeze

A political row has blown up over the freezing of a county-council fund, which provides vital grants to small groups and organisations.

Liberal Democrats and Conservatives on the council have hit out at the new Labour administration, warning of ‘dire consequences for young and vulnerable people’ due to the moratorium on the Community Chest fund.

But Labour’s council leader, Grant Davey, has said that it is part of a wider review of the legacy of the last council and that they are looking at a more tailored approach to funding.

The Community Chest fund is currently worth £310,000, with £40,000 reserved for countywide projects and the remainder split equally between the three council areas – north, west and south east.

Coun Heather Cairns, Lib Dem deputy leader and ward member for Alnwick, said: “While it is reasonable to review how the Community Chest is allocated, it is absolutely not reasonable to jeopardise schemes that have already been put in place for this summer.

Political row on chest fund

“It is simply unfair that Labour councillors are playing politics in this way and leaving dozens of community groups and charities across our county with this sort of uncertainty.

“I am calling on the county council to ensure that schemes which are already in place for the summer will be funded as planned.”

And Conservative group leader, Peter Jackson, said: “It came as a total shock to me and there was no indication up to this point that they were going to take this drastic action.

“From my point of view, they have broken a cross-party consensus that has existed for five years. The current scheme was passed by the whole council in the budget in February.

“A lot of organisations have put a lot of effort and faith into this scheme.”

But Labour leader Grant Davey said: “As part of a wider review of the legacy left by the previous administration, we’re looking at the effectiveness of all schemes.

“We think that the scheme would benefit from a more tailored approach and as such, we’re looking at the feasibility of ring-fencing a dedicated pot for specific capital projects, which will mean more resources, not less, for smaller organisations across the county.”