Breckland leader sorry for £300,000 support grant mix-up after town and parish anger
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011
A move to slash funding to town and parish councils of more than £300,000 looks set to be reversed after it emerged that a district council was not following Government guidelines.
Breckland Council has come under fire from parish and town councils after it opted to keep hold of the Council Tax Support Grant at a meeting on November 21.
But the decision is to go back to councillors after leader, Michael Wassell, said he had confused it with another funding stream.
He had told members at the meeting that the council was under no obligation to pass on the money, which was issued to smaller councils last year to compensate for changes in the council tax benefit system.
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He has since been criticised after it was revealed that just days before the decision was made, he had received confirmation from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that the money should have been passed on.
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The letter, sent on November 18 from deputy director for council tax, Hulya Mustafa, states that the funding 'includes an amount to pass on to parishes'.
Mr Wassell said he had not intentionally deceived councillors at the meeting, but had confused two tranches of funding.
'My and my colleagues understanding at the time of the meeting was that Transitional Grant related to the money intended for distribution to parish councils. This is why I stated that Ministers had been clear that the grant had been for 13/14 only as this was the case with the Transitional Grant.
'I have since had further clarity on this issue and the two grants are different. It was an unfortunate misunderstanding for which I apologise,' he said.
Mr Wassell confirmed that the issue would now be put back to councillors as an urgent item of business.
Terry Jermy, Labour group leader at Breckland Council, said he was 'delighted Breckland has recognised its mistake'.
'I hope that this will herald the start of improved dialogue and partnership working between Breckland Council and parishes and towns in the District – local government faces immense pressure financially and it is only by working together that this challenge can be overcome,' he said.
Mr Wassell had also come under heavy criticism from Roger Atterwill, chairman of Swanton Morley Parish Council over the issue.
In a letter to the EDP and Mr Wassell, Mr Atterwill said Breckland had 'effectively robbed' parish and town councils.
Do you think Mr Wassell's response is fair? Let us know by emailing reporter Andrew Fitchett on firstname.lastname@example.org