Corangamite councillor says discretionary funding change slows ability to respond

THE end of Corangamite councillors’ ability to quickly allocate minor discretionary amounts of money to the community is “a sad day”, Cr Neil Trotter says.

Cr Trotter said the council’s decision in February to make councillors’ allocations from a discretionary fund on a quarterly basis rather than as requests arose restricted councillors ability to rapidly  respond to requests. The change was due to the misuse of discretionary funds by “some areas of local government”, he said.

The reform follows a statewide review last year of councillor discretionary fund practices by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.

Cr Trotter said councillors’ use of their discretionary funds had become an “issue” in other councils but he had been satisfied with the way the funds had been used by Corangamite councillors.

Under the previous arrangement, people from the community would approach a ward councillor and make a request for funds.

The ward councillor would seek approval from one other councillor and the request would go to the council’s administration for approval.

Cr Trotter said while the allocations were small, they meant a lot to small community groups or individuals.

He said the allocations might be to pay for advertising for a community event or to help someone experiencing hardship.

“We had latitude to respond to things as they arose,” Cr Trotter said.

The new arrangement, under which the entire council must approve applications quarterly, meant applicants would have to wait a while, he said.

Corangamite’s councillor discretionary fund has allocated a total of $11,000 a year but the figure is decided when the council sets its annual budget.

The council decided in February that a limit of $1000 would apply to any single donation.

Funds are allocated to community groups to undertake beneficial projects and activities for local communities or to individuals to enable them to attend events of significant public benefit.

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