Community chest remains

A BID to reduce the funds available in Naracoorte Lucindale Council's contentious community chest program from $40,000 per year to $30,000 failed last week.

At a special meeting to approve the release of the council's business plan and budget for 2014-15, several councillors singled out items they wanted to discuss before approving them.

Cr Malcolm McLean raised the community chest, which has been discussed at some length over the past 12 months or more in council meetings.

The chest concept was developed to simplify the process of community groups applying for financial support from the council for specific purposes, but it has increasingly been called into question by some councillors who believe groups are using it as an annual handout.

Cr McLean said he felt the council had "lost our way a bit" with the original intention of the chest and groups seemed to be exploiting the program by "using it as a fundraiser".

He suggested reducing the total funds available from $40,000 to $30,000. (Groups can only receive a maximum of $2000 each in twice-yearly allocations).

Cr McLean said: "I don't disagree with it - I think it's a good idea - but it should be for something specific.

"They're not going to working bees or anything, they're just putting their hand out. Let's make them work a bit harder."

Mayor Erika Vickery warned against general criticism of all groups, as some did do the right thing and legimately only applied for support when it was needed for something specific.

She said: "Conditions are in place that have been approved by you as councillors," and added that one of them was that groups couldn't apply every year.

Cr Trevor Rayner said the community chest was a great concept and helped to keep council's financial support of community groups more structured.

He said when approached by someone for support, a councillor could merely direct them to apply to the community chest, instead of debating it with them, and it also removed the need for long discussion in meetings about which donation requests the council should grant.

"When we didn't have it (the community chest), we used to spend hours talking about (donations as small as) $2."

Cr John Flynn agreed with Cr McLean that too many groups were applying more often than they should, and for non-specific projects.

"The council's not here for handing out money," he said. "There's all sorts of reasons to put it back to clubs."

Despite their arguments, not enough councillors were convinced and the motion to reduce the total funds available was defeated 4-5.