Last year for community grants Community Grants (CGs) – perhaps the last connection between the local government and the Citizens. Often a last resort for cash and mostly a supplication to Council to reduce the payback for using Council owned facilities.
Awarding CGs is an onerous task for the people assigned to deliver them. There are always more requests than money available and the final list can appear to be full of “favourites”. This Council is filled with a mix of “run Council like a business” types and “I’m here to deliver for the people types” and a couple of “I don’t know which group I am in”. So predictably the tax-fighters, who want to nickel and dime the budget favour no grants. The others, being Pols cannot afford to appear to be so bold and just say “No”. A couple really believe in the system!
It is no surprise that the new Mayor, revealing himself to be a Business Technocrat, who appears to have no understanding of community and what makes a community, is in favour of elimination of CGs. He is supported by the newest member of Council, who by reading his background most will understand that he is a “taxfighter” having only lived in Cobourg for a few years will have little understanding of the deep roots between CGs and the annual requests for money.
Most of the CGs that receive money are groups that directly benefit the Town by their devotion to the cause. For example the Victoria Hall Volunteers is the driving force behind the Heritage and Upkeep of Victoria Hall. The Cobourg Ecology Garden is a visible asset to the Waterfront. The Cobourg Museum asks for relief on its Taxes and the reasons pile up.
As one member of a CG lamented in a recent FaceBook post, “my organisation really depends on the little amount of money we get.” The amount of money involved is miniscule in a $60 million operation – $35,352 – $11,200 cash and $24,152 In-Kind. But the political payback is immense. If the people who think the Town should not be giving relief to CGs and want to eliminate them entirely want to do so go ahead and cement the perception that Council does not care about its Citizens.
What should be done about this dilemma?
Well there is an answer and it has been suggested before. Establish a Community Grant Programme funded by some of the revenue generated by the Town owned assets.
This “community chest” should be funded with the paybacks from HoldCo, or the Northam complex and be solely used for assisting the Community in its Cultural and Social responsibilities. The Fund would be governed by Citizens not on Council but well respected for their civic devotion and business acumen. (Shouldn’t be hard to find a few of those!) With more money larger grants would be possible for more groups. The fund should be able to make substantial grants for necessary projects. Just imagine that if the”community chest” was in operation now the nasty debate about closing the Centennial Pool may never have happened, it would have been a no-brainer to use the “community chest” to fix it!