Friday, 15 July 2011

Member's budgets could be used to buy votes at the taxpayer's expense

Details of Cheshire and Chester Council Member's budgets 

Over the past two years Members - given £5,000 a year for their own personal member budgets totalling £790,000 - funded 770 schemes for 465 organisations.

The figures were revealed when the annual report of the Members Budgets Expenditure Report went before the Executive last night (Wednesday).

This year’s Member budgets have increased to £10,000 for each of the 75 Councillors and Council Leader Mike Jones hopes that over the next four years they will rise to £60,000 per member. [My comment: That's £4.5 million for councillors to spend on individual pet projects which could be used to boost the number of people who vote for them.]

“I put £3,000 into a £50,000 project for nets for the young people in the local area and they have got a first class facility for cricket in Tattenhall now.

“So its what a local member sees as important. It allows local members to be innovative in working in some fantastic schemes going on in your community and to really be an enterprising force in your communities.”

My comment: Whilst there is no doubt member's budgets can be used for good causes there is a serious risk that some members could use them to indirectly buy votes. The council as a whole should award money to good causes not individual councillors.

Read more information from the source Cheshire West and Chester Council

UPDATE 26th July 2011: Looks like Telford & Wrekin Council is following in CWaC's footsteps.

Telford councillors given £1,000 each for community projects

My comment: I wonder how long it will take them to realise that given more money councillors could persuade more people to vote for them at the next election?

UPDATED 3rd August 2011: Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman Laura Johnson said:

"How a member chooses to spend their member’s budget grant is completely down to them.” 

My comment: And therein lies the problem. It allows councillors, should they wish, to buy votes at the taxpayers expense and that can't be right under any circumstances. 

Read the full story from the source Ellesmere Port Pioneer

Whilst in Stoke on Trent City Council Councillor Mick Salih says  "I don't think we need to have it at all, but if we do retain some kind of ward budget system for next year then it must have proper criteria in place to ensure the funding is not misused for personal or political gain."

My comment: If a Councillor is worried that member's budgets could be misused then all taxpayers should be worried.

 Read the full story from the source This is Staffordshire

UPDATE 20th February 2012: Lawyer agree with me!

The Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Association consulted a London, Ont.-based lawyer who said 'individual councillors should not be responsible for distributing money. The lawyer suggested there could be a conflict of interest'.


Read the full story from the source CBC News Canada

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