North Norfolk District Council leaders claim Big Society Fund has forced local area partnerships to be ‘self-sufficient’
Council leaders promised that more money would go 'to the front line' as they launched a �450,000 'big society' fund to give grants to communities and organisations across north Norfolk.
North Norfolk District Council leader Helen Eales said the current system of funding local area partnerships in eight towns had led to �250,000 being swallowed by administration costs.
And she said the new way of doing things, beginning on April 1, had forced many of the partnerships to become 'self-sufficent', which she said was the vision when they were set up a few years ago.
Mrs Eales said: 'I think this is going to be better because there's going to be more money available to projects. It will also be open to the whole district.
'I also believe that it has forced some of the partnerships to move on and move into the area they were supposed to have gone into three or four years ago.'
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Graham Jones, chairman of the North Norfolk Liberal Democrats, said the Conservatives had 'kidnapped' community funding in the district.
He said: 'We think the big society fund is a major distraction. It has had a considerable impact on the very successful local area partnerships, which were beginning to work very well.'
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The fund has the money available for 2012/13, and offers grants to community projects intended to improve or support the wellbeing of communities and/or deliver improvements to the local economy in north Norfolk.
It will be overseen by a cross-party board of district council members, while day-to-day administration will be undertaken on the council's behalf by the Norfolk Community Foundation, to which organisation all applications should be made.
The board members, who will decide how to dole out the �450,000, are council leader Mrs Eales, Trevor Ivory, cabinet member for localism and the big society, Conservative councillor Ben Jarvis and Liberal Democrats Philip High and John Wyatt.
Mr Ivory said: 'This is about getting money straight to the front line, and giving communities the opportunity to do things that they know will be of benefit.
'We don't want this to be about district council priorities, we want it to be about supporting communities.'
The council said the aim was for the grants to be easy to access for a wide range of community and charitable organisations and applications would be considered throughout the year.
Applications are invited from April 2 and those submitted before May 4 will be considered at the first meeting of the board on May 21.
? For further information on the fund and details of how to apply, visit www.northnorfolk.org/bigsocietyfund.