An independent Lichfield councillor says she will not accept money for a new micro-grants scheme after it emerged the funds would be paid direct into the bank accounts of elected members.
The new scheme was given the backing of Lichfield District Council’s cabinet this week.
It will see £300 given to each member to use to support community organisations.
But after it emerged that the money would be paid to councillors for them to distribute, Cllr Joanne Grange said she would not be willing to receive the payment.
“The micro grants issue is a good idea, but using councillors’ own bank accounts to administer the scheme is not.
“My bank account is for my personal banking, not for distributing taxpayers’ money and hence I will not be accepting the cash.”Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council
Questions were raised at cabinet over the audit trail behind any payments, with Cllr Ashley Yeates saying members would need to provide proof of where they had distributed the funding.
But Cllr Grange said there were many pitfalls to the proposal to pay money directly to councillors in the first instance.
“The ‘rules’ on distribution are open to interpretation. It is easy to see how making a decision about who gets the funds could be a judgement, and there could be disagreements about what is considered ‘appropriate’ resulting in allegations of financial impropriety through a difference of opinion.
“As a chartered accountant, being accused of or found guilty of such impropriety – however unlikely – is a risk I am not prepared to take.
“Being found, as a result of someone’s opinion, to have misused £300 of public funds would be career ending.”Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council
Despite saying she would reject the process, Cllr Grange said she was keen to find a way to make the scheme work.
“If there are any groups in Chadsmead that would benefit from £300 – or a share thereof – let me know and we’ll come up with a solution.
“But it won’t involve me letting the council send £300 to my personal bank account for some, as yet, unknown purpose.”Cllr Joanne Grange, Lichfield District Council