Councillor Empowerment Fund – It’s Your Money
I think it is time to reveal the ‘Con’ of the Councillor Empowerment Fund to the people and taxpayer’s of Northampton.
If I can start by using a couple of examples of what I am referring to that have happened in the last month.
I was in a meeting where a local councillor was explaining to some residents that,
“I have spent £1900 on putting the fencing in”.
I then read in the local newspaper how three local councillors had
“Paid for bicycles for the police”.
Let me say I have no problem on what the money has been spent on especially if it is additional to front line services and provision that is or should be provided by the Borough or County Council.
Where I have a problem is in the language used by Councillors which invariable infers that it is “their money” when in fact of course it is “tax payers money”.
What the Councillor Empowerment Fund really amounts to is taking money from the tax payer’s pockets and then asking people to be grateful when they spend it on the very people it was taken from.
A bit like Robin Hood stealing from you and then saying “please say thank you” when he gives it back.
What is even more annoying is that the publicity given to Councillors invariably increases in the 12 months prior to an election so we can expect to see a similar increase in the ‘look at me and what I’m doing for you, be grateful’ stories between now and next May when the County Council elections take place.
Another area of great concern should be the fact that even during a period of the worst recession since before the second world war, a period when communities and charities have been desperate for funding to keep essential services running we see that Councillors have apparently been ‘stockpiling empowerment funds’.
In recently accessed public documents from the Northamptonshire County Council it shows that of the County Councillors representing the Northampton Borough, three have ‘stockpiled’ over £10,000, two have ‘stockpiled over £12,000, one has ‘stockpiled’ £18,000, two have ‘stockpiled’ over £20,000 with the highest ‘stockpile’ being over £30,000 .
My view and that of people I have talked to is that if County Councillors lack the initiative or competence to work with the community to release the funding in the year it has been budgeted for it should be returned to a central fund that is accessible for communities and organisations to bid for in those areas where people have got their act together.
Or even, dare I say it, to be reallocated to the voluntary sector organisations who support the vulnerable and elderly and whose funding has been so cruelly cut by the County Council.
We will have to see just how quickly those whose names will undoubtedly come into the public domain spend the funding/tax payers money they have stockpiled, and I would lay odds if I was a betting man that a whole raft of the “it has been committed” excuse will almost immediately be trotted out.
Local Communities will be right to ask their local County Councillor just exactly what have they spent tax payer’s money on and how it has benefited the local community they represent.
They might also see the ‘stock piling’ as either Councillors being out of touch with those who voted for them and who they are supposed be representing or cynically ‘stock piling’ tax payers money to buy votes.