The question was posed by former town mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, at a meeting on Monday (October 1).
She didn’t dispute the good work done by the CAB but said there were other deserving groups and organisations in the town who could be helped by more financial support.
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield North, defended the £18,836 grant to the CAB, saying it helped vulnerable people at times of greatest need.
Members of the town council’s general purposes committee were considering the recommendations of its finance sub-committee for grants payable in the next financial year.
The council, through its budget-setting process, has established two ‘pots’ of money to be distributed by grants.
One piece of legislation relates to the grant paid to the CAB and the other to money paid to other groups and organisations which bring benefit to the town.
Details of these at the end of the story.
Cllr Eastwood said she thought the amount given to the CAB was “too high”.
“Compared to what other charities and organisations do within the town, I would have liked to have seen more given to those deserving and less to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
“It does concern me that it is a large chunk out of the budget.”
Committee chairman, Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, said she “totally understood” where Cllr Eastwood was coming from.
“I also have my concerns.
“That [CAB money] is given under a totally different section. So, that’s how they do get that amount.
“If Fred Bloggs was to look at that, they would be saying exactly the same as you.
“What needs to be explained is that it comes under a completely different section.”
Under the law
Town clerk, Holly Goring, said the money for the CAB was paid out under the powers granted in section 142.
The council had actually agreed a budget of £19,500 for this year.
“This full council sat here in January and approved the budget of £19,500 for section 142 funding.”
Cllr Eastwood asked if any other organisation could benefit from the same grants ‘pot’ as the one used to support the CAB.
The town clerk said she would have to investigate the legal position. Any other organisation would have to meet the criteria laid down by law.
“There may be others that come under that umbrella but I would have to delve into that. Traditionally, this council has only treated the CAB under that umbrella,” she said.
Cllr Sparks said he could “not disagree more” with Cllr Eastwood over this matter.
‘Huge amount of work’
He said he used to be a volunteer for the CAB and is the council’s representative on the trustees board.
“They do a huge amount of work for Uckfield and then people living within the town,” he said.
“The value that brings, the amount of extra money they actually generate for the town is well in excess of any grant money that we give them.
“They have always been a very worthy organisation but are even more so with Universal Credit being introduced.
“They are the ‘front office’ for the Uckfield Foodbank, so they are hugely important.
“Of course, virtually all the grant goes towards paying the rent to the town council for the offices they occupy.
“In a way, you could say that we are actually getting the money back.”
Councillors voted to approve the grants, as recommended by the finance sub committee
The legal position with grants
The grant to the CAB is made under section 142 of the Local Government Act 1972 which specifically states is to “assist voluntary organisations to provide for individuals—
(a) information and advice concerning those individuals’ rights and obligations; and
(b)assistance, either by the making or receiving of communications or by providing representation to or before any person or body, in asserting those rights or fulfilling those obligations.
Grants to other groups in the town are made under the ‘General Power of Competence’ in the Localism Act 2011.
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Find local organisations in our Uckfield Directory