Isn’t the “Community Leadership Fund” just a way to help incumbent councillors to get re-elected ?
Let me start by explaining what the Community Leadership Fund is. It’s an amount of public money that’s entrusted to each principal authority councillor (Rotherham Borough councillors in our case) to distribute as they see fit to good causes for the benefit of the people of the ward, that the councillor is elected to serve.
I find the idea of distributing public funds in this way deeply inappropriate. Effectively it’s a way for incumbent councillors to buy votes using public money to do so. In Rotherham, it used to amount to £1000 per ward councillor, per year. I say used to be as it’s probably even more by now, but there’s little transparency around the actual amounts, as although each councillor advertises the fund on the RMBC (Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council) website, I can’t find the total amounts that are given to each councillor to distribute, anywhere on the website.
If it is still £1000 per councillor, per year, it means that each ward councillor over their four year term of office has seemingly donated £4000 to local good causes. That also means that if like me you live in a ward that has three Labour ward councillors, they have jointly donated £12000 of public money to good cause in their present term of office. Now in May if I stand as a council candidate how can I compete against these three Labour councillors who’ve been giving away thousands of pounds to local people (even though I’ve also spent many hours volunteering for my local community, without receiving any expenses, I might also add) but these three lovely Labour councillors have been giving out money left, right and centre to good causes, even though it was you and me that earned that money in the first place.
Parish Councils also have a small grants scheme similar to this using public money, to go towards local good causes within the Parish, but unlike the Community Leadership Fund it’s up to the council as a whole (or a council committee) to administer it, and not up to individual councillors, as that would rightly be illegal and improper.
Now I’m sure that Rotherham councillors will point out that this fund is only a matter of small amounts of money, but with 63 councillors all receiving at least £1000 each this year, that’s (even by my maths) at least £63000. Perhaps I might suggest humbly, that there are better ways to give this money to good causes i.e. I read today in the newspaper that RMBC are cutting lollipop patrols across the borough to save a mere £25000. Hey presto! We might just have found a way to save all of Rotherham’s school crossing patrols. But I won’t hold my breath.
Think on this though as you go out to vote on the 5th May this year, that of Rotherham’s 63 councillors 47 are members of the Labour Party and corporately this group alone have given at least £188000 over the their four year term of office through this fund, given by their individual councillors, but how many recipients of this money will be aware, that this is not money the councillors gave out of their own allowances, as if out of the goodness of their own hearts, but public money that we as citizens earned ourselves in the first place.
My critics (i.e. the councillors) will argue that it’s all nonsense and that these small amounts of money aren’t going to buy any votes at all, so my challenge to any councillor whose is reading this, (and come on, I know you’re out there) is for you to individually commit to set up a Trust or use an existing Charitable Trust within your ward to administer this fund on your behalf, because if this fund isn’t for buying votes it won’t matter anyway whether it is you or a trust that distributes this money, it is then truly an altruistic act, but if it is for buying votes, well you shouldn’t be using public money to benefit you politically anyway. Let’s see if here on Rotherham Politics we can get a single Rotherham councillor (or dare I believe a whole political group) to commit to doing this right now.