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Letter to Somerset Standard and Frome Times, 1 March 2011: Mendip Tories defeat Lib Dems over funding for local projects and arts

by adamboyden on 29 February, 2012

I was disappointed to witness the decisions by Mendip’s Conservatives to reject the sensible proposals by Lib Dem councillors (mainly from Frome) that would have allocated more Government money to local projects and restored some Council funding to the arts,  at Mendips’ recent Full Council meeting, the same meeting that discussed the Council Tax for this year.  We welcomed the move by Mendip to avoid increasing its Council Tax this year, and to avoid any redundancies of hard working officers this year. 

The amendments we proposed were to Mendip’s medium term resource strategy, which identifies how the Government’s New Homes Bonus windfall fund will be divided in principle between areas of council spending. We noted the outcry in Frome that Mendip proposed to keep 99% of the Government’s New Homes Bonus funding within the Council and to only allocate 1% to ‘local projects that improve communities’ environments’, and understand that other councils have allocated much more to local areas.  This money is provided by the Government in order to help local areas cope with the impacts of new housing development, and so we think more should be allocated locally for that very purpose.  We therefore proposed that the share for local projects should be increased to 5%, but the Conservatives defeated our proposal.  However I do hope to see that they will indeed be ‘flexible’ and increase the actual amount of funding for local projects in the end. 

I also was very disappointed to see local Conservatives, including from Frome, defeat our sensible proposal to restore funding for the arts in the community. This is despite there being more than ample reserves to provide this, with no effect on Council Tax, and despite local Tories’ apparent commitment at the 2011 local election to ‘support local arts and theatres’ in their election leaflets, which is now rendered meaningless.  This is despite the Government Secretary of State for Culture (Conservative Jeremy Hunt) even calling for the arts to be funded from both public and private sources.   This is despite the serious threat from both Mendip’s and Somerset County Council’s arts cuts in 2011 on local arts venues such as the Merlin Theatre, and is despite the obvious importance of the arts venues that were previously supported by the Council to the local economy, education, careers in the arts, and our community in Frome and other towns, which some Conservatives at Mendip apparently do not understand the value of.  

Adam Boyden

Lib Dem, Mendip District Councillor for Frome College ward

See also http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Council-tax-frozen-year/story-15297997-detail/story.html

PS – There is also the possibility of the (currently undefined) ‘Legacy Projects’ allocation (which gets 30% of the funding) will be spent on local projects, but what this is for is yet to be determined. This possibility was not mentioned by the ruling Conservatives at the meeting, but has been referred to since by a prominent Cabinet member from Shepton Mallet.

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