Bloom grant splits council

Funding for Whitby in Bloom has come under scrutiny at recent town council meetings
Funding for Whitby in Bloom has come under scrutiny at recent town council meetings

A GARDENING group has divided Whitby’s Town Council after raking in a guaranteed £2,000 for the next year.

Whitby in Bloom’s hugely successful team of volunteers have secured the grant from the town council, ensuring their award-winning work can continue until at least 2014.

However, some councillors have argued that by ring-fencing this funding, other equally valuable projects and groups will suffer from not getting a fair shot at the money.

Speaking as the chair of Whitby in Bloom, Amanda Smith said: “The money that Whitby Town Council allocates to the Bloom group is a concrete sign of the value it places on the volunteers. It shows that this community values and respects the commitment these residents give to their town.”

Whitby in Bloom has regularly received £2,000 in grants from the council, but with the availability of future funds unsure, the council suggested ring-fencing the Bloom grants to ensure its future.

“As local residents cut back, more and more things are going to be done by volunteers,” said Coun Niall Carson. “This would be a real practical thank you to the volunteers who already exist.”

However, with only £3,000 available for the town council to distribute to community groups each year, some councillors felt it would be unfair to automatically assign two-thirds of this sum to one organisation.

Coun Noreen Wilson said: “I’m very uncomfortable with this. It’s not allowing everybody to start on a level playing field. I would like to see the entire £3,000 to be applied for and judged on their own merits.”

Coun Ian Havelock agreed, saying: “None of the other groups receive anything like this amount of money so I’m very against it being ringfenced.”

A compromise was suggested by Mayor John Freeman, who proposed that the £2,000 grant be ring-fenced for 2013/14 only.

He added: “We’re only a few weeks away from planting and starting work, so to not undertake that sort of money, it rather throws a bad feeling and uncertainty to how they will fund their year’s work.”

Allocating the money for this year only will allow the council’s finance and general purposes committee to develop a new set of “robust” criteria for deciding which community groups receive council funding, according to Coun Simon Parkes. He had seconded Coun Sean Rixham-Smith’s original motion and added: “I really feel we need to value the Whitby in Bloom group. They do an incredible amount of visible work and when I supported this it was because I was looking for a mechanism to keep this group going, because its future could be in danger.”

The town council voted on the proposal to ring-fenced £2,000 for Whitby in Bloom for the next year and the motion was narrowly passed be a final vote of six to five.