What Does Bracknell Think? What would you spend 10,000 on in your local area?By Becky Barnes
February 06, 2013
This week we asked our panel about councillors not spending all of their allocated money from the members’ initiative fund where each councillor was given £10,000 to spend on their ward in the 2009/10 budget.
At the end of last year £83,728 of £420,000 remained unspent ahead of plans to allocate another £420,000 in the 2013/14 budget next month. We asked our panel to comment on this and gave them the opportunity to say what they might spend £10,000 on.
Rev Michael Bentley, former Great Hollands Neighbourhood Association chairman: “In our wards (Great Hollands North and South) all of the councillors pooled their money and came to one of our forums and asked for suggestions on how it could best be spent. As a result the money was used to purchase a number of different projects. We are proud of our councillors because, although they are from different political parties, they put the needs of the people first. I wonder why the councillors in some of the other wards haven’t done the same thing?
“Is it because they don’t know the real needs of the people in their wards? Or have the local people not been able to agree on how this money could be spent?”
Hazel Kent, of Bracknell Market café: “I don’t know if it’s the same as years ago that if the money isn’t spent in the space of a year, funding is cut the following year. Being skeptical about most things, I fear this is still the case. Great Hollands Square is a great example. I wonder if the money had to be quickly spent and so someone decided to spend it on a load of hideous large planters and scattered them around the square.
“CCTV would have been a far better use of the money to at least make the area safer rather than a place to avoid come dusk as the feral animals tend to emerge from their dens and make the area a no-go zone if you feel insecure in any way.”
David Little, from The Warren: “There is certainly a need for a considerable improvement in the transparency regarding these funds.
“Having heard a whisper about Crown Wood councillors funding some work at the local Community Centre from a ‘project fund’, our own councillors were all asked on several occasions by my local residents’ association whether such monies were available within our ward.
“This was met with a wall of silence and it is only as a result of the recent press article (Bracknell Forest Standard) that the whole matter has come to light. Even then, it took three approaches before the councillors held their hands up and explained where the money had gone – elsewhere!”
Peter Smith of The Better Business Alliance: “It is easy to be critical of councillors who have not spent the money they have been allocated but we have to be aware that being a councillor is very much a political office.
“Therefore care needs to be taken to ensure the maximum number of residents in their ward, especially the ones who are likely to vote or be vociferous in their criticisms, need to be taken in to account.
“The initiative I am involved with – Experience Exchange – needs additional funds but would be beneficial for all the residents of Bracknell Forest not just my ward and so would probably not qualify.
“Similarly the Citizens Advice Bureau desperately need additional funds but also probably benefits too many people to receive these funds.
“Nevertheless, I am sure that with a bit more effort the funds could be used to good effect – what about the Scouts and Guides locally or the food banks that are struggling?”