In 2017-18, Bridgend Council set up a Â£285,000 fund which would enable councillors to spend up to Â£5,000 on projects that would benefit their respective wards. BCBCâ€™s Audit Committee will discuss whatâ€™s been done with the fund to date (pdf).
I outlined the ground rules last September, but hereâ€™s a summary of what the fund was supposed to be used for:
How has the money been used?
Â£77,200 of the fund has been spent by 28 councillors, with 13 of those councillors using the money for more than one project. The total list of councillors and their projects is available here (pdf).
Councillors from every single party and group made use of the fund, though 27 councillors decided not to take up the option.
The main beneficiaries seem to be schools and community groups, with the majority of fund applications being used either to make improvements to school play areas or to fund upgrades/one-off purchases for community organisations including a piano for Brackla Community Chorus, a compost toilet for Caerau Community Growers and installation of public defibrillators in Coety, Caerau and Brynmenyn.
The projects that used the full Â£5,000 allocation are:
- Cllr. Huw David (Lab, Cefn Cribwr) â€“ A sensory space for special needs pupils as Cefn Cribwr Primary School.
- Cllr. Keith Edwards (Ind, Maesteg East) â€“ Replacement safe playing surface at Garth Primary School.
- Cllr. Jeff Tildesley (Ind, Cornelly) â€“ â€œSculpturesâ€� at Afon-y-Felin Primary School.
- Cllr. Nicole Burnett (Lab, Morfa) â€“ Play area for Foundation Phase pupils at Penybont Primary School.
- Cllr. Jane Gebbie (Lab, Pyle) â€“ Refurbishment of St Theodoreâ€™s Church for community use.
The Reaction to the Fund
Councillors have been mostly positive about the fund. One unnamed councillor said their investment of under Â£1,000 towards a Safe Routes to School study has led to a Â£450,000 commitment from the Welsh Government towards a scheme for Newton Primary.
Other councillors said they felt empowered and that relatively small investments have made a big difference to the countyâ€™s smaller community organisations. It also encouraged councillors from different parties and groups to work together to achieve common goals.
Some of the concerns raised include the fact that calls for investment from communities often fall outside the remit of the scheme (i.e. grass cutting, potholes, bus routes), complaints about the amount of additional work created for councillors and the council through the application process, as well as comments that the money would probably be better used elsewhere.
What happens next?
The Audit Committee has called for a full review of the Community Action Fund at the end of the current phase of funding in order to determine whether the investments have made an impact and whether it was a good use of council resources.