Meanwhile on Planet Babergh

BureaucracyI sometimes reflect how life in/on Babergh District Council seems how life might be on a distant planet/country where rules and standards as we know them do not apply.
So I was intrigued to read that on Thursday 16th December the Joint Scrutiny Community are to look at Council Grants and External funding and resolve that the following be the subject of further investigation:
(a)    To   include  the   external   funding   offer   in   the   work   of  the   Grants   Review Project to maximise opportunities for our Districts through externals funders  and opportunities locally, regionally and nationally.
(b)    To research the reduction of our Communities Grant spending from 2017 to 2020 and align internal budgets for non-grant allocations.
(c)    To   pay   the  Annual   Revenue Grants   in  interim  stages  to  ensure  robust monitoring, evaluation and meeting of strategic priorities.  (my italics)
My initial thoughts were that this business was ultra vires. Scrutiny is a reactive committee and does not promote policy – that is the purpose of the Strategy Committee. At a stretch you could say that this activity comes under the role and function heading of “undertaking the Council’s responsibilities in relation to financial governance issues”. But it is a stretch and my earlier point stands, Scrutiny does not promote or formulate policy – that is the purpose of the politicians on other committees.
The paper for discussion on Thursday tells us that grants in Babergh total £419,000. We are not told what the criteria are for successful applications, where the money went, who proposes recipients and who approves the applications.
I get concerned when I see that grants will be paid in interim stages. As a former lending banker I am familiar with stage payments in building projects. These are usually predicated upon surveyors’ certificates and let builders (and bankers) access the credit ratings  of the principal parties. There is unlikely to be a valid comparability with District Council grants.
I get concerned when I see that the stage payments are to  ensure  robust monitoring, evaluation and meeting of strategic priorities. How many extra people do we need to employ to robustly monitor and evaluate? Why can’t we be happy with the ability of the recipients to employ the monies properly? If we are that concerned with the  probity and abilities of the applicants, then we do not advance the funds. If we really need to copper bottom the proposals then let the local Councillors recommend the grants and monitor their usage.
I get concerned when I see the  Tory party of smaller government being lead by the officers into the bogs of greater bureaucracy. The Joint Scrutiny Committee has no business in this matter at present and it begs the question as to who is giving leadership in Babergh District Council. When none of Babergh’s political parties had overall control, decisions were (in theory) directed by the Political Leaders  Group. Since there was no overall control, the executive and officers of the Council felt obliged to provide the leadership that was lacking.
Despite the Conservative Party’s successes of May 2015 that position seems to continue.

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