Posted by: iangilbert | September 22, 2011

Youth Work Fund

There is a report in yesterday’s Echo about the ‘Youth Work Fund’ which was set up to allow councillors to donate some of their allowances towards youth work in the borough.

At the last budget the council had to make deep cuts in our expenditure, and make a significant number of council employees redundant. I felt quite strongly that councillors should share the pain and take a cut in allowances.

We were told that we could not agree this collectively, because legally we had to take advice from an independent panel before making any changes to the allowance scheme. We were also told that we could not use voluntary contributions to keep staff in employment because it was too much of a budget risk to plan on contributions that were voluntary. (We seem to have planned a budget on the basis of car park charges that haven’t happened, but that’s another story.)

I always thought that the voluntary arrangement put forward by Councillor Terry was a pretty unsatisfactory compromise but it was the only thing that all the group leaders could agree to in time. We chose youth work as that was the most heavily cut service.

Anyway I duly filled out my form to forgo 10% of my basic allowance, but due to the vagaries of the council payroll it was only this month it was due to be processed. I got a call from officers to say I was one of only three people going to contribute, and later on one of the three phoned me to say he was pulling out as well.

At that point it did seem absolutely pointless to go ahead with it and it would be more productive to donate to youth groups operating in the ward (I have a plan help start more youth activities as well). I still forgo a small part of my allowances in respect of members’ travel (and have never claimed a penny for travel or subsistance at any point since being elected).

If anyone knows any youth group that could benefit from a small donation, give us a shout.

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