Ward budget scheme extended so each Hartlepool councillor can spend £5k

Chris Simmons.
Chris Simmons.

A SCHEME to give Hartlepool councillors pots of money to spend in their wards will be extended for another year.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Ward Member Budgets sees all 33 councillors given £5,000 to distribute in their neighbourhoods to address specific resident and ward issues.

Members of the council’s finance and policy committee agreed the scheme should continue next financial year for 2014-15.

It will be funded from £631,000 of council reserves which have not been set aside for anything else.

A recent review identified the council has £33,928,000 of reserves of which £631,000 will be released to spend on other things. The continuation of the ward budgets will cost £165,000 leaving £466,000 which has not yet been allocated by the council.

The ward budgets were introduced to replace the former minor works budget.

Labour councillor Chris Simmons, of Victoria Ward, said: “I think they help us address very localised issues within our communities and the money has been a great benefit to local people.”

The budgets have been used for a variety of schemes including work to community buildings, environmental and horticultural schemes, training programmes and traffic-related projects.

As of April this year, £107,432 out of the total budget of £181,500 had been allocated for about 65 projects and any remaining money can be rolled over into the next financial year.

In the Rural West, Jesmond, Victoria and Headland and Harbour wards, the budgets were used to help fund a community bus after public transport routes were withdrawn.

All funding is approved by senior council officers.

Detailing how the funding has been found for the continuation of the scheme, the council’s chief finance officer Chris Little said in a report: “The latest review has identified those reserves where the initial risk has reduced and the reserve, or part of the reserve, is no longer needed and can therefore be released.

“In total, the amount which can be released is £0.631m.”