residents issue call to council to review budgets
Burnham-On-Sea residents have called on the Town Council to review
how it handles grants and its budget-setting process.
Turco and Bev Milner Simonds spoke separately during 'public participation
time' at the start of Monday's Burnham and Highbridge Town Council
resident Alex Turco spoke out at last Monday's meeting on
his observations of last month's Town Council Policy & Finance
said: "Whilst it is entirely right that there is proper &
thorough scrutiny of how public money is spent, at times I am sorry
to say that it felt like a cross between a scene from Oliver and
a Christmas Carol with a blend of please Sir, can I have some
more with a good dose of Bah Humbug."
"After almost an hour of discussions for three local groups
concerning whether documents could or could not be tabled, inadequately
briefed representatives, and confusion about the meaning of total
project costs and how much exactly the Council was being asked to
contribute, I realised that there was one further representative
of an applicant present. He was the representative of the Citizens
Advice Bureau, who had come to ask for funds to continue to provide
the services that are much needed and valued in the communities
of Highbridge and Burnham."
"I felt quite embarrassed that he had witnessed the preceding
hour of tortured negotiations with three local groups."
"In addition, I am alarmed by the decision to reduce the number
of grant meetings per year from three to two on the apparent grounds
of office workload and other business requiring meeting time. Concentrating
the grant applications will likely make the grant meetings excessively
long and nothing has been done to reduce the number of applicants
to reduce the paperwork required. Further, whilst not making any
allegation, I challenge members to be seen to be entirely impartial
next April, mere days before an election, when the first Grant meeting
of the new year is scheduled."
"Members will know that I am a regular and long serving Town
Council watcher and I would invite the longest serving Councillors
to cast their minds back to how the Town Council used to handle
grants, which if re-introduced would maintain scrutiny and transparency
whilst reducing the administration to find a better way of proceeding."
"Based on the strategic objectives of the Council, partner
organisations used to have their own budget lines each year. The
Responsible Financial Officer had delegated authority to distribute
funds up to the budget line. If this structure were to be re-introduced,
with the ongoing use of the Councils grant monitoring form,
the Responsible Financial Officer would be able to obtain all relevant
information prior to a meeting and then the Committee would be able
to review all spending each year in full possession of the facts,
before a new budget was set."
would reduce substantially the number of applications for grants
whilst maintaining the Councils support for organisations,
services and events that meet its priorities and that help make
this community a better place to live work and visit. I am sure
the representative of the CAB would have been delighted not to have
waited for his turn."
local resident, Bev Milner Simonds, called into question
the budget setting process during Monday's meeting.
speak as a resident - not as an event organiser, not as a member
of a political party - but because I see the council making decisions
without a plan," she said.
spoke out in 2017 when they were setting the budget as I thought
that it was odd that they allocate 26.69% on maintaining the graveyards
and only 1.2% on youth provision. Looking at next year's budget
not a lot has changed."
and Sedgemoor councils both consult publicly on their budget. This
council has shown an appetite for consultation by consulting on
the Burnham Evolution project, ironically that was a consultation
on how to spend money you havent got."
seems to be a lack of a plan. Deciding to cut down on the number
of grant-setting meetings, but not having a plan of how to reduce
the number of grants and seeing an opportunity for a section 106
payment, but not having a plan for how any funds might be spent.
Having a Neighbourhood Plan that will see an increase in any CIL
payments, but again no plan in place. Or a plan that they have all
have heard councillors speaking 'off the record' to journalists,
making public Facebook and Twitter posts - that at best are ill-advised,
at worse are slanderous, bringing the council they serve on into
disrepute and crossing moral and taste boundaries. Its these
increasingly frequent indiscretions that annoy me and make me fear
for this council."
personal attacks I can shoulder, I think they say more about the
councillors who make them than my endeavours to make Burnham and
Highbridge a better place to live, work and visit. But the complacency
that means that this council continues to always do what they always
did, in the same way because questioning the convention isnt
something that you do in the run up to an election... thats
In response to the comments made at the meeting, the Town Clerk
Tatiana Cant clarified the position regarding council working procedures.
Town Council has a clear Social Media Policy which applies to all
councillors and employees of the Council, and has been circulated
to all individuals affected."
Town Council is fully aware of the need to plan strategically and
decide, in consultation with local residents, what the direction
and priorities should be for our towns. The Council already works
strategically, monitoring progress at the Princess Theatre for example
against the Business Plan."
intention is to build on this work by discussing these issues in
depth and to develop a long-term Corporate Strategy on a more formalised
and comprehensive basis. Clearly this work does need to be done
quickly and is important to inform decision making and in particular
the budget setting process. It has been decided to undertake this
exercise at the beginning of the term of the newly elected council
in May 2019 to ensure buy-in from all councillors and continuity