Thursday, 25 July 2013

But council leader Coun. Grant Davey said this week that the real reason for the hiatus was concern over the way council taxpayers’ money was being distributed.

Labour leader offers pledge on community chest handouts
By BRIAN TILLEY
Published at 07:41, Wednesday, 24 July 2013
SLAMMING the lid of Tynedale’s £100,000 community chest shut had nothing to do with plans to divert cash to the urban south east of Northumberland.

Council leader Grant Davey.
That was the assurance from Northumberland County Council’s Labour hierarchy, as anger at the cash snatch continued to reverberate round the district.
The council’s deputy leader Coun. Dave Ledger stoked the flames of fury when he said last week that the community chest payments had been suspended because of a perceived imbalance in the distribution of grants between the sparsely populated rural areas and the more populous south east.
But council leader Coun. Grant Davey said this week that the real reason for the hiatus was concern over the way council taxpayers’ money was being distributed.
A detailed investigation is now under way into possible legal irregularities with some payments.
The council has brought in experts to look at how the grants have been used on a random sample basis.
Around 10 per cent of the awards are going to be audited, to establish whether some of the awards have been used for purposes other than specified.
“We want to make sure tax payers money isn't being used for the wrong purposes,” said Coun. Davey.
“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 the community chest 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 fewer, for smaller organisations across the county.”
He confirmed investigations were already under way to ascertain whether some groups who applied for community chest money – not in Tynedale – had used the cash in the proper manner.
The council’s joint audit group with North Tyneside Council is being tasked to investigate how the fund has been applied in the past and whether the fund was being used correctly.
Meanwhile, Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman is continuing to demand answers on how the decision to suspend the community chest was seemingly taken by a lone councillor without reference to the council committee which administers the fund.
Mr Opperman said: “What has gone on here is beyond extraordinary.
“That kind of decision making process has no place in a modern council.
“We need a full investigation to find out who was taking the decisions,why they took them, and why they were allowed to."
The MP has written to Coun Davey, demanding answers by the end of the month.
In his letter Mr Opperman says: “What matters now is getting to the bottom of how this decision could be taken in such a shoddy way.
“We need answers and we need them now.”

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