July 6, 2016
Burnham councillor accused of acting 'like a court jester' during debate

A Burnham-On-Sea town councillor has been accused of acting like a 'court jester' during a heated debate about grant funding policy this week.

Cllr Phil Harvey was accused of "political point-scoring" after proposing a new policy and procedure be introduced to handle grant applications from businesses.

He proposed clearer criteria for awarding business grants, tightening up monitoring, gathering more evidence of grant funding achievements and progress, and he suggested that bigger grants be awarded to community groups than for businesses.

But Cllr Mike Facey, Chair of the council's Policy and Finance Committee, told Monday evening's meeting: "I don't know if we're allowing political point-scoring tonight but it certainly sounds like it to me."

"All members received a memo in June and in the last paragraph it said if you would like more discussion on this matter please ask the Town Clerk or the Chairman of Policy and Finance to put it on the next agenda rather than come along and play the part of a court jester."

He added: "Our Burnham and Highbridge Town Council annual report also gives details about how much we spent on grants last year, covers a new monitoring system ensuring grants recipients return evidence of grants spent, and that applications over £1,000 will require the presence of the applicant, plus an update at the end."

"That system is in place and I would be only too place to discuss this with the Town Clerk and Cllr Harvey if he wants to come along in the proper way as we suggested in the memo of June 1st."

But Cllr Harvey responded: "Cllr Mike should be aware as he chairs the committee that I gave my apologies at the last Policy and Finance Committee meeting because I was away on holiday. Therefore, the suggestion in the memo was never available to me. Tonight was the next best plan. I wasn't at the last meeting so I couldn't bring it up at the last Policy and Finance Committee meeting."

Cllr Harvey said: "As a Town Council we do not receive any funds from businesses, so we have to be very careful with any grants we give to them as they are not our primary responsibility."

"Grants to businesses can be justified and what I am trying to do in this motion is build on the memo that we received from the Town Clerk which asked us to try and come up with some coherent policy."

"As a Town Council I don't think we are particularly good at producing policies, whether coherent or not. I do feel we tend to make day to day decisions more often than not. Before you is an attempt to produce a policy on businesses. It may not be perfect - it may require amendments and further discussion."

Burnham and Highbridge Mayor, Cllr Michael Clarke, proposed that councillors take away the suggested policy document to review and then to provide any feedback to the Policy and Finance Committee for it to compile a recommendation for the full council.


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