Colne in Bloom cash to be slashed?

Britain in Bloom judges during their inspection in Colne.
Britain in Bloom judges during their inspection in Colne.
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Funding for Colne in Bloom could be cut dramatically cut following decisions by Pendle Council’s Colne and District Committee.

Liberal Democrat councillors expressed their surprise and concern at the decisions by the Conservative majority.

Colne in Bloom is about a lot more than just the flowers – it’s about community involvement with schools and traders and local groups all pulling together for the benefit of the town. But if we have less money there will be less flowers, it’s as simple as that

Dorothy Lord

Coun. Tony Greaves, Liberal group leader, slammed the Conservative proposals as ill-thought out and politically motivated, saying he was “mystified” by their actions.

However, local Conservatives have described the plans as “supremely sensible” and “more democratic”, saying they will put the area “on an even keel”.

The decision relates to the Bloom grant for 2016 as the £12,000 grant to Bloom for 2015 was agreed earlier this year. The proposals are that, in future, the direct grant to CiB is abolished. Instead each councillor in Colne and District will be allocated £500 for a “horticultural fund” which they can do with as they wish.

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Coun. Dorothy Lord – who also chairs Colne in Bloom – said: “Colne in Bloom is about a lot more than just the flowers – it’s about community involvement with schools and traders and local groups all pulling together for the benefit of the town. But if we have less money there will be less flowers, it’s as simple as that.”

She added there is already a lot of money raised from local businesses and community groups and donations from individuals, as well as a huge effort by volunteers.

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After the meeting, Coun. Greaves said: “The Conservatives said they might add another £500 per councillor to their “horticultural funds” later in the year. But this would still not guarantee it would go to Colne In Bloom. And, even if they get all of it, the funding would still be cut by a third. Astonishingly, the Conservatives also said the money for CiB for next year had to come from this year’s money.

“The committee has already paid for the CiB grant for this year out of this year’s money. Now they are wanting to pay for next year as well out of this year’s money. All this will do is cut down the number of other projects the committee can fund this year – useful things in Colne.”

Colne area committee chairman Coun. Graham Waugh, a councillor for Foulridge, has developed the new funding scheme and explained: “I want to be fair to all the excellent groups who improve this area, whether they are groups of residents, Incredible Edible or Colne in Bloom. There is much to do over an enormous area. In fact, it is never ending!”

He said Colne in Bloom had previously contacted the committee for funding for plants in March (the beginning of the growing season) when the committee had spent its budget and had to promise money it did not yet have. “Spending next year’s money is not best practice to put it mildly,” he said. This year would see the committee “catch up” by paying Colne in Bloom twice: the cash pledged in March and again in March 2016.

Discussions over Colne in Bloom funding led to consideration of restructuring the whole set-up for allocating cash for environmental projects to make it “more democratic”, said Coun. Waugh. “We’ve put decision-making closer to the residents of each ward with this scheme,” he added.

“Centralised allocation was not a fair system to all the residents of Colne’s wider area, as it led to some areas on the periphery being overlooked.”

He said ward councillors would now get an allocation, depending on the size of their ward, to spend on environmental improvements and had been asked to ring fence money for Colne in Bloom for next March.

Coun. Paul White commented: “I think the idea is supremely sensible and support Graham wanting to put us on an even keel wholeheartedly.”

And Coun. Jonathan Nixon, new councillor for Horsfield, added: “I am a massive supporter of Colne in Bloom and would like to see the group, who do so much to make our town look attractive, getting the same from Horsfield councillors as they did last year, though, obviously, that’s a discussion I’ve yet to have with my fellow ward councillors.”