Cr Danita Potter helping out at Nanango’s annual Community Christmas Carnival … the event is one of many activities the South Burnett Regional Council assists through its $150,000-a-year Community Grants program

December 10, 2020

South Burnett Regional Council will make changes to its Community Grants program next year, but whether they will be in place by the February grants round is undecided.

At last week’s Standing Committee meeting, Councillors heard the review followed feedback from the community, consultation with senior staff and changes in legislation.

Proposals include:

  • Combining the existing Community Events Sponsorship, Healthy Communities Sponsorship, Project/Program One-off Sponsorship, Indigenous Affairs and Rural Services into a new, combined Community Grants category
  • Adjusting the Councillor Discretionary Fund so monies can no longer be used to help community groups cover operating costs such as rates or insurance
  • Making Community Australia Day Events a year-round program that community groups can apply to at any time, rather than limiting applications to the February and August grant rounds
  • Removing Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) grants from the Community Grants program so it can operate more flexibly

At the meeting, Councillors were told merging five existing streams into a new Community Events category would provide more consistency and flexibility for assessing applications.

The change would also allow funds to be moved between categories if any stream was underspent, helping ensure the maximum amount of funding was returned to the community.

Changes to the Councillor Discretionary Fund were also necessary due to legislation after a state-wide investigation by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

The CCC recommended stricter guidelines be imposed on Councillor Discretionary Funds.

Councillors were given a discussion paper outlining the proposed changes, and it provoked debate.

Cr Kathy Duff said she “wasn’t keen on” preventing discretionary funds being used to help community groups meet routine expenses, although she understood the change was due to legislation.

However, she was more concerned with the suggestion the Indigenous Affairs and Rural Services streams be merged into the new Community Events category.

She said it was her belief that at least half of the Indigenous Affairs funds – and all of the Rural Services funds – were to be used by Council for community programs it developed in these areas.

“This (new arrangement) just complicates it,” Cr Duff said.

Communities General Manager Peter O’May said a key aim of the suggested changes was to simplify things.

Cr Gavin Jones said one area he had issues with was keeping cash grants separate from in-kind support, where community groups can apply for one form of assistance or another, but not both.

He said Council had separated cash and in-kind contributions to prevent some community groups “double dipping” (ie. getting a cash grant, then obtaining services or equipment from Council as well).

Cr Danita Potter said one aim of giving cash grants was that the money was to be used to buy services from local businesses.

Giving extra in-kind support might prevent local equipment hire firms getting sales.

Cr Kirstie Schumacher noted there were several big events in the region Council wanted to be involved in because of their tourism promotion potential.

She asked if Council should consider a new Major Events grant program for these.

In the end, Councillors decided to continue examining the proposed changes.

They hope to bring a final version to either the January or February General Meeting.

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