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Councillor fund scheme proposed to help West Norfolk community projects

A scheme to give local councillors money to distribute to groups in the areas they represent could soon be coming to West Norfolk.

Borough council chiefs are developing plans to introduce Local Member Funds that would allow individual councillors to directly support community initiatives in their wards.

A report on the idea is expected to be presented to the authority's next Cabinet meeting in August.

King's Court, Borough Council of West Norfolk.. (43755272)
King's Court, Borough Council of West Norfolk.. (43755272)

And the authority's leader, Stuart Dark, told its latest session last Thursday: "We feel the best people that know what’s going on in individual wards are the individual members."

The idea is similar to a programme which Norfolk County Council has run for several years, in which individual members are given budgets to put towards transport priorities in their divisions.

In 2017, two of Lynn's then county representatives - Alexandra Kemp and Thomas Smith - combined their individual £6,000 budgets to secure a 7.5 tonne weight limit on the B1144 Vancouver Avenue, Tennyson Road and Tennyson Avenue, preventing lorries from using the route.

Mr Dark told members the borough proposal had been inspired by the efforts of community organisations to help people through the coronavirus crisis.

He said: "There seems to be a slight gap in how we can fund things in our communities.

"One of the positives, if there are any, to come out of Covid have been the grassroots things that have sprung up across the borough.

"All of us have got them on our patches as councillors and it’s right as we come out of the pandemic to look at how we can help them thrive."

The session also heard that members of a new panel which will decide how levy monies secured through the planning process are distributed will meet for the first time next week.

Officials say nearly £400,000 has already been distributed to parish authorities in the borough through the community infrastructure levy, which is charged on new developments.

Development portfolio holder Richard Blunt said the total fund stood at £1.9 million at the end of March and more than 70 organisations had applied for funding.

He added: "I’m hopeful we have some very successful projects coming out very soon."

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