COUNCILLORS from Dorset County Council are set to be given £5,000 each a year to support projects in their local communities.
The divisional budgets, approved by the cabinet, will be for an initial trial period of nine months and will allow councillors to grant money to projects or services in their divisions.
The new policy will cost £250,000 per year and will be reviewed in November.
If it is deemed successful, it will be included in the council’s constitution. Each individual councillor will have the freedom to give in their own areas and to which projects and how much each project should be given out of their allocation. As part of the policy, only £1,000 can be rolled over from one year into the next. Spencer Flower, leader of Dorset County Council, said: “This isn’t cutting edge – it has been in existence for a number of years around the country and is an opportunity for local member empowerment.
“It is a pilot and we will be reviewing it after nine months.
“The best way of testing something is by using it.”
Cllr Peter Wharf, from the scrutiny committee, told the cabinet he felt the new policy could damage the public’s perception of the council if this was to be made policy during the recession.
Cllr Wharf also added each councillor should be given training on the new policy so that they could understand what they are and are not allowed to invest in. Cllr Flower added: “Anything done here is in policy, members are not making policy on the hoof.
“There isn’t any opportunity for that, this is around project work. This is empowering local members to do stuff on the ground. We have the benefit of dipping into the knowledge from around the country.
“You have got to trust the integrity of the local member and having an open mind about projects in their divisions.
“There is lots and lots of good practice out there and I believe we have tapped into that.”
The move was later approved at full council despite two members – Cllr David Jones and Cllr Wharf – stating they had ‘misgivings’ about how the system will work.
Cllr Flower responded: “I think this is empowering the local members to do certain things in their divisions that may not otherwise happen.”