Less From Less: Community Grants

I attended a council meeting this week where 8 community grants/events applications were being considered. The information available was so poor I wrote the attached sentence to the attending officer’s manager requesting better information – and all my colleagues present signed.

The total amount requested was around $38,000, although no more than $27,000 was available, so you would have thought this should be very straightforward. Also, applications for council grants have probably been around as long as councils, and over the last 5 years a standard form has been used which confirms the legitimacy of the organisation, its funding capability, history of previous grants, and all the detail on what’s being applied for that you’d expect. In fact it’s traditionally been quite bureaucratic and time consuming for applicants and processers (but then it’s public money…).

However, the grants area in council, as with the rest of what we call CDAC (Community Development Arts & Culture), has been going through a lot of change. They are being “empowered” and streamlined. A central, larger fund has been disbanded and the rules have changed, meaning many organisations will receive less or no funding this year compared to previous. A new “Quick Response” fund has been established. But the fact this takes at least two months is an irony missing from the designer.

We learnt at the meeting that current resourcing meant the basic information we have usually used to make decisions was not available, and the “Quick Response” Fund would provide even less of this. This included the applying organisation’s financial history!

If the council organisation thinks that quicker responses will be made with poorer quality information, they are in for a surprise.

Doing “more with less” has been one of the Mayor’s mantra at council for a while now. But there are plenty of examples like (parks maintenance, town centre standards, some library hours) where we see that the “more” is actually missing from the mantra.

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