Council funding row not resolved

Gainsborough Autism Support Group and West Lindsey Leisure Centre held a fun day for families with children who suffer from autism to raise awareness of World Autism Day G110402-11
Gainsborough Autism Support Group and West Lindsey Leisure Centre held a fun day for families with children who suffer from autism to raise awareness of World Autism Day G110402-11

A MOTHER who volunteers to help run an autism support group for Gainsborough families has spoken out about her fight to access funding.

Helen Foster has been battling since September to get an answer from Gainsborough Town Council about whether it will grant £1,800 to the group.

Gainsborough Autism Parents Support Group puts on play days and swim sessions for autistic children and provides support and respite for their families.

“We put the application in to the council in September after which we had no communication from the council about what happened next,” said Helen, whose 11-year-old son is autistic.

“We only found out through the council minutes that we would need to do a presentation and provide more information.”

The presentation, which Helen thought had gone well, was in January.

Since then, the item has remained on the council’s agenda month after month, without discussion.

“It feels like they don’t want to discuss it, so they defer it to the next meeting,” said Helen.

But while the autism group’s funding bid lay on file, another came in from Coun Sean Brennan.

He asked that the council consider setting aside £5,000 - £10,000 per year for Gainsborough Adventure Playground Association (GAPA).

GAPA’s money trouble has been well publicised, after funding cuts left the play facility’s future in doubt.

Coun Brennan, who pledged during his by-election campaign to secure future funding for GAPA, suggested the council could afford to allocate the money from its precept of nearly half a million pounds.

But the move was seen by some as jumping the gun, considering other funding applications were yet to be approved by the council.

“Don’t get me wrong I think GAPA is great,” said Helen Foster.

“But what about all the other groups that do good in the town? Which there are plenty of.”

“Our bid was to pay for a whole year of activities, and we are run entirely by volunteers.”

“We’ve been paying to put on events out of our own pockets.”

“Meanwhile GAPA has a huge wage bill and assets totalling £300,000.”

GAPA committee chairman Charles Cook said he could not comment on how the town council made its funding decisions.

But he explained GAPA was still ‘not out of the water’.

“We are anticipating a deficit this year of a few thousand pounds.”

Mr Cook said the £300,000 in GAPA’s accounts represented the main building, which he explained was not a ‘utilisable asset’.

He also accepted the charity’s staff wage bill was the largest single expenditure.

“If we didn’t have those staff GAPA would not exist,” he said.

“They are on an hourly rate, not an inflated salary. And the work they do is wonderful.”

“The people who work for us are incredibly loyal, hard working and dedicated.”

“If I thought cutting wages would save GAPA I would have recommended it a long time ago. But that would be cutting the best bit of GAPA - the fantastic relationship we have with the community.”

“That can’t be replaced by volunteers or staff on lower wages.”

Both funding applications appeared on the agenda for the town council’s meeting on Tuesday 1st May.

Both items were deferred until the next management and finance committee on Monday 14th May.