Comment 59961

By highwater (registered) | Posted February 18, 2011 at 09:23:40

Let's be clear: I support all of the fine work done by local volunteers and organized charities...

Glad to hear it, Graham. Let's just make sure we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can't speak for all the donations of course, but I know in a few cases in my ward, funds were given to informal volunteer groups who can't afford to become registered charities, so have limited opportunities to raise their own funds. IIRC, in one case, some money was promised to a group precisely so that they could register as a charity and begin independent fund-raising efforts.

Certainly these types of 'donations' do come with the fringe benefits of boosting the councillors' image in their ward, but I think it's overly simplistic to dismiss it as vote-buying. It is part of their job to facilitate positive, community-based initiatives in their ward, and often these initiatives need a little seed money to get off the ground, but don't have access to other types of funding due to their ad hoc nature.

I agree that there needs to be far more transparency and accountability, and registered charities and non-profits that have access to other funding channels should definitely not qualify, but if we eliminate councillors' discretionary spending altogether, we need to ensure that there is a pool of funds somewhere that small, grassroots neighbourhood initiatives can access so their ideas aren't stillborn.

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