The residents of Wolverhampton trust their council to distribute varying amounts of money to volunteer and community groups, and with any luck, monitor just how this money is spent. Typically the funds will go to centres for the disabled, refuges for victims of domestic violence, youth theatres and religious groups.
In some cases, rather than receiving a lump sum of money, smaller organisations might receive rent concessions, but of course taxpayers’ should still expect the activities of each group to be monitored and funds withdrawn if money is being used inappropriately or the organisation itself appears stagnant.
Well, Wolverhampton City Council seem to carry out the monitoring without difficulty, yet there’s evidence that they continue to subsidise rent regardless of the verdict.
Take the Goldrush Strength Club in the city. It’s never received much as a concession, £172 in 2006/7 and £255 in 2007/8, but that’s not really the point, this money is still public funds and there are still many people – particularly pensioners – struggling to pay their council tax each month. It's shocking then, that regardless of the following review, the club continued to receive concessionary rent into 2008/9:
Goldrush Strength Club
Premises occupied: Garage, Tettenhall.
The garage is used to store Mr Goldcrusher’s strength equipment which he uses for his promotional shows with the aim of raising funds for regional and national beneficiaries. No fundraising events have been held in the last eighteen months and much of Mr. Goldcrushers work has been focused on non-community activities. Despite requests, no financial documentation or monitoring of usage has been provided.
Outcome of Consultation:
No response received from the Organisation.
The amounts may be relatively nominal, but it’s the attitude of a council who will just overlook a proportion of someone’s owed rent without any good reason that's so worrying. I’m sure Mr. Goldcrusher is delighted that he needn’t pay full rent, or do any of the charity work he claimed he was going to, and Wolverhampton Council don’t really mind.
Unfortunately, it's poor old taxpayers who foot the bill, and council decision-makers don't seem to concerned about splashing residents cash on unworthy causes...
Take the Nissa Women’s Association who received a more substantial £2,234 in 2006/7 and £2,301 in rent concession, and they’ll still avoid paying a good few hundred pound this year, despite this verdict:
Nissa Women’s Association
Premises occupied: Two Bedroom House, Whitmore Reans.
The group helps local women mainly from the BME and the Asylum seeker community to improve basic educational attainment via short computer courses. The group has made no links to existing provision in the area and has very limited outcomes. Officers have visited on two occasions recently and on one day the premises were closed and on the other no service users were present.
Outcome of Consultation:
Email response stating that 30 service users benefit from the Associations services, no evidence provided to substantiate figures.
So what is the point of assessing these organisations, finding them unworthy of funding, and then continuing to subsidise them? Why aren’t Wolverhampton City Council being more selective about the causes they choose to support?
Some community organisations are sponsored to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, without local residents having any breakdown of exactly where this money actually goes. If these two outfits have been deemed worthy of ongoing support, taxpayers in Wolverhampton have every right to be concerned about just where their cash is being spent and by whom.