Posted: 15.10.20 at 16:24 by The Editor
The withholding of a grant to Market Deeping Youth Group has caused a split in the town and fuelled feuding between two rival councillors.
Market Deeping made the decision at a meeting last night, leading to town deputy mayor Virginia Moran, whose casting vote halted the funding, to hit back at criticism posted of her online.
The vote had been three in favour, three against and four abstaining, leading to the deputy mayor making as casting vote as chairman, as Mayor Josh Yarham was not present at the meeting.
The youth group is said to have some turbulent leadership in recent years, though current trustees say everything is now back in order.
But when the town council blocked further £3750 of funding last night, Coun Judy Stevens, a youth group trustee, accused Coun Moran of ‘a personal vendetta’ behind her decision.
For many years, the youth group received funding from Lincolnshire County Council, but is now supported financially by Market Deeping Town Council and Deeping St James Parish Council.
Coun Stevens told Nub News: “Due to the hard work of the Trustees the accounts for the Youth Group have been transformed in the last few years.
“BUT we are and never can be self-funding. Since Lincolnshire County Council pulled the plug about 8 years ago, Deepings Youth Group has relied on funding from the Town and Parish Council to pay our staff and for the premises we rent.
“Now it seems we can no longer do this! So the future of the Deepings Youth Group now hangs in the balance. This, while Market Deeping Town Council are building a state of the art sanctum for in the region of £25,000.
“I believe that this is a personal vendetta that Coun Moran has against me which manifested itself when she was heard to call me a witch at a full SKDC council meeting recently.”
Coun Stevens added: “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. My colleagues and I work tirelessly to make Deepings Youth Group be there for the young people that need it. Tonight, they have been done a huge disservice!”
The Deeping St James Conservative took to social media last night to express her views, and was also backed by fellow trustee Jayne Reed, who branded the council decision “devastating news,” noting Deeping St James Parish Council has continued its funding.
Jayne said on Facebook: “The Youth Group is run as a charity, and is not for profit and never has been. We cater for 11-18 year olds, and we currently meet twice a week. I personally volunteer every week and am also a trustee so have invested many of my personal hours to this cause.
“The reason I do it is because I see the brilliant outcomes first hand. Our members have a safe haven where they come along meet friends and enjoy their time. How sad that one person casting a vote would not only decide not to let us have the vital funding that was already agreed back in late 2019/early2020, but indeed is not afraid of jeopardising our Youth Groups future!
“Many of you might have attended this Youth Group in your teens, many of you may have children that attended in the past, many may have children that are our current members, and after we all come out the other side of COVID many of you may wish for your children to join us."
Jayne added: “Not only am I reaching out to let you all know of the terrible news, but also to ask you to support us in having this decision overturned?
"I am not currently aware of the protocols we will have to follow, but pleased be assured that I will fight alongside the other trustees, and our excellent youth leader and assistant youth leader to change the course of what has happened this evening. “
With the news creating some uproar on Facebook, Coun Virginia Moran hit back.
In a statement also posted online, the deputy mayor commented: “Contrary to posts elsewhere I wish to state the following.
“The funding of DYG was NOT removed. No decision was taken to remove future funding (why would we do that?). The remaining funds for this year are still there. They will not be spent on anything else.
“When the youth group originally asked for their grant this was done via a very aggressive email with no supporting documentation (as stated in our policies). No information was given at the presentation to Finance Committee regarding their current finances.
“We were told that if they did not receive their funds that jobs and the existence of the youth group were at risk. We asked them to come back to the next meeting and bring their accounts and at that time gave them half the money. They submitted their accounts but did not attend the meeting."
Coun Moran continued: “The accounts showed that at the beginning of the year they had £16,000 in the bank and have since had grants of nearly £7,000 on top of that (I understand that a further £4500 is to be granted by Deeping St James shortly).
“From the figures given for costs it appeared that they had available funds of around £18,000 (more than sufficient for the next 12 months) but the Market Deeping Town Council trustee refused to answer any questions on why they needed more money right now.
“We did not feel that the youth group was at risk of closure and decided not to grant the remainder of the anticipated grant at this moment in time. They were, however, free to re-apply should funds run low.
“We do not want the youth group to close but there needs to be transparency and accountability (as with all grants made). Or would people rather that we gave out funds willy-nilly no matter whether they were actually needed or not?”
Coun Moran (Ind- Market and West Deeping) further continued: “Much has been said regarding the funds for the group being 'precepted'. Precepting is the mechanism whereby we ensure we apply for enough funds to cover all eventualities that we can predict within a year...
"So we precept for the cost of maintaining all the land and building we own, any repairs and maintenance of areas we look after, any projects we wish to finance etc. We also precept for any foreseeable large grants - such as the library and youth group...
“For instance, we precepted money for CCTV on John Eve field. We aren't going to be able to progress that this year but the money doesn't go elsewhere! It will still be sitting there next year when we are able to do something about it hopefully.
“The hope being that our estimates are higher than the reality so you don’t end up short etc.
The deputy mayor explained further: “The reason the Deeping Youth Group and the library appear on the Council tax bill is that we are required by law to publish any grants we give out in excess of £5000.
"Any funds that aren't spent or weren't required go in 'ear marked reserves' - we can draw these back at any time and for any purpose. Last year we drew back enough reserves so that the Council Tax only went up by some teensy amount.
“So, to sum up. Just because funds are precepted for doesn't mean that the intended recipient is entitled to them by right. In the case of grants, applicants still have to fulfill the criteria set out in our policies.
She added: “I WISH TO RE-ITERATE THAT NO FUNDING HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN FROM THE YOUTH GROUP NOR HAVE THEY BEEN DENIED THE RIGHT TO APPLY IN FUTURE.”
Coun Ashley Baxter, who like councillors Virginia Moran and Judy Stevens, is also a member of South Kesteven District Council, backed Coun Moran.
Coun Baxter (Ind- Market and West Deeping) told Nub News: “I attended the meeting. I was satisfied Market Deeping Town Council had legitimate reasons to withhold the funds at this stage.”
He added: “Sometimes it’s necessary for elected councillors to make difficult and unpopular decisions. At this time, it seems the right decision.”