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Just 6.2% of Caerphilly County Borough Council’s budget for charities and small groups has been spent – with concerns the voluntary sector is not being listened to.
Between the beginning of June and the end of September, £5,330 of the voluntary sector fund was handed out. In April and May, £2,140 was spent – a total of £7,470 with £110,081 is still in the pot.
The budget is so big because of backlog, so years of underspending.
Grants to the voluntary sector go to local groups such as sports teams, allotments, choirs, and charities to spend. There is no maximum grant an organisation can receive, but according to the council’s website the average amount ranges between £35 and £500.
Roger Evans, a member of the Voluntary Sector Representatives Committee, has previously called on the council to “simplify” the application process for small grants. Mr Evans said it should be easier for charities and groups to receive grants.
At a voluntary sector panel meeting in July, members supported the proposal that a task and finish group would be set-up to review the criteria and processes for the grants.
Four months on, Mr Evans said nothing has been done. He added: “As far as the voluntary sector is concerned we find it frustrating that no progress has been made to go in to this issue at a detailed level – we have around £5,000 being spent, but they still have well-over £100,000 unspent.
“We first put comments on how the system could be improved three years ago. There’s a growing feeling in the voluntary sector that we are not being listened to when we have genuine grievances to put before the council.
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“Every other council in Gwent manages to spend its allocated amount, the reason for Caerphilly’s underspend can only be explained by the bureaucracy in the application form.”
At a voluntary sector panel meeting on Monday, November 21, Stephen Harris, head of financial services at the council, apologised for the delay.
He confirmed that in January 2023 an informal workshop will be arranged, where the current process will be presented to members. Mr Harris said it would be an opportunity for discussion and for members to make recommendations to the cabinet.
At the meeting, Plaid Cymru councillor Judith Pritchard: “I think there’s a lot of disappointment in the voluntary sector, and certainly myself and probably other members of this panel that this hasn’t been dealt with already. It is a matter of considerable urgency.”
The council also has the responsibility of the Welsh Church Acts fund, between the beginning of June and the end of September, £22,418.53 out of £227,913.14 was given out to local churches.
Cllr Pritchard, who represents St. Cattwg, said: “We’re not having much success in dispensing this money to voluntary organisations at the moment because we have got large underspends. We need to change things.”
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