Council defers Lakenheth grant decision after councillor says he knows applicants
A decision on whether a Lakenheath church should receive £30,000 of council tax-payers’ cash has been deferred after a Newmarket councillor, with the power to agree the grant, declared he knew the applicants.
Members of Forest Heath Council’s cabinet agreed to allocate £75,000 in grants to nine local organisations through its Community Chest initiative when they met on Tuesday when Cllr Robin Millar, the portfolio holder for families and communities, declared an interest in EPIC Dads project put forward by Lakenheath’s Abundant Life Church, which it had been proposed should receive £30,000, the highest single amount allocated to any of the community chest projects. Cllr Millar informed council leader James Waters that he knew the applicants and those involved with another proposed beneficiary, Our Special Friends, and did not take any part in the discussion when these two items were considered.
Councillors went on to approve the Our Special Friends grant of £3,000 but the decision over funding for EPIC Dads will now rest with Cllr Waters and portfolio holder for resources and performance Cllr Stephen Edwards.
A council spokesperson said: “The Community Chest scheme aims to get funding as close as possible to where it is needed to make a real difference. The applications are made by the organisations and assessed by officers against rigorous criteria before being recommended for approval by members. Cllr Robin Millar, Cabinet member for Communities, declared an interest in the EPIC Dads and Our Special Friends applications, recognising the conflict of interest. The portfolio holder followed procedure and pro-actively spoke to the leader to make sure he was aware that Cllr Millar could not lead the discussion on the report. Cllr Millar left the room whilst this item was discussed.”
According to the cabinet report, EPIC Dads, which last year received £24,491 from the same funding pot, ‘celebrates, supports and empowers fathers to be their best for their children and thrive in the privileged role of being a dad’. Our Special Friends which helps isolated and vulnerable individuals continue to benefit from animal companionship during illness and other crises, received £6,000 last year.