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Wednesday
May092018

A Grant By Any Other Name

Following on the previous post in regard to Thames Economic Development Grants, I was informed yesterday that the newly formed Thames Business Association had fronted at Monday’s meeting in order to present their case for an $80,000 grant under the LTP submission – not as a Economic Development Grant.

This group is chaired by prominent Thames pharmacist – Heather Moore, with former TCDC Planner – (now an independent consultant), Katina Konomos acting as its interim executive officer - a formidable 'team of two!'

This matter was not on the meeting agenda, so that the only way in which it could have been discussed was by way of introduction as “a matter not on the agenda” with an appropriate motion. I have seen no evidence of this to date, but have been promised that the minutes should be available tomorrow. I draw attention to this because sloppy meeting procedures have bedevilled this Council in the past.

On request today, I have been provided with the following information:

“The Thames Business Association requested an $80,000 grant under the Long Term Plan submissions, not as an economic development grant. This was considered and agreed to by Thames Community Board at its LTP deliberations meeting on Monday 7 May, to be funded from existing budgets, including the Thames Promotion Project budget, with the proviso that the business association achieve some of the objectives of the promotion project.

The grant request then goes to the Council as part of its LTP deliberations next week.

The attachment is the grant request tabled at Monday's meeting. The minutes from that meeting should be available tomorrow.”

This is interesting because on examining the paper that was produced at the meeting dealing with both this and another matter concerning the Thames Airfield (also not on the agenda!), it is revealed that the staff recommendation was that the $80,000 request be declined, and referred to the Chief Executive.

In the event, and as you can see from the information provided today, the request was granted by the Board – this can only have been done with the support of the Chair – Dianne Connors, and this raises all manner of questions around probity - staff recommendations should not, and are not lightly ignored in these circumstances.

I set out here the Analysis that accompanied the request for funding:

“Council staff including the CEO have been in discussions with the Thames Business Association Action Group with a view to striking a targeted rate to fund the Thames Business Association operation from 1 July 2019.

The $80,000 requested is for the 2018/2019 year gap of operation. Council has been asked to fund this resource from the Thames Community Board funding. The CEO has indicated that he could resource a part-time resource (less than 0.5FTE) on behalf of the business association for the gap year to assist in gaining support of the members for the Business Improvement District and associated targeted rate. This resource could also assist the new association to be formed soon with some early initiatives that would show the proposed members the benefits of having the business investment district.

Should the Council continue with its proposal to remove the Economic Development rate then the Thames businesses will have a significant rating reduction in the coming year. This may make the businesses more open to funding the gap year through higher voluntary subscriptions.

Staff note the requests for $25,000 and $15,000 to develop a work programme for the business association, and to identify an implementation and prioritisation plan for the Thames Urban Development Strategy. Staff will work with the Thames business Association and the Thames Community Board to identify possible resources to support the work program.

Recommendation:

Decline the request for $80,000 for the Thames Business Association funded role in 2018/19 and refer support for the Association to the Chief Executive.”

I intend to be present at the LTP Deliberations on 15 May – Note, the deliberations will follow the ordinary meeting commencing at 9am. I will be interested to see just how this particular item is handled. I emphasize that I am not opposed to the idea - it probably has great merit, but such a large grant requires that it be determined in a 'squeaky clean' manner.

Such does not appear the case to date, and the indifference of Thames business's in the past to any suggestion of 'organisation' does not give great confidence that they will be any better at organising (and paying their way!) than they were when something similar was mooted in years past - though there could be a different reaction if the Ecopnomic Development rate on business is removed next week as proposed in the LTP.

But rate-payers need to be very cautious about permitting their rate dollars to be used to subsidise any type of interest group. This, along with reference to Strat's discredited, and long abadoned (or was it?) Thames Urban Development Strategy sends shivers up the spine - "anyone for traffic lights?"

 

 

 

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