COUNCILLORS across St Helens are being given control of a £15,000 budget to improve their local areas.
Cabinet members voted in favour of the measures to replace the system of ward committees.
Town Hall chiefs say the system of ward committees were wasteful, with around £600,000 of £2.5m allocated funds going untouched.
Council leader Marie Rimmer said: “The new system will be more flexible. Unlike before it will not be a ‘one size fits all approach’ and will let councillors determine what works best for their own wards and constituents.”
Under the old system, a committee made up of councillors, police, community leaders and residents decided how the cash was spent.
But many critics felt the committee process slowed down decision-making and prevented quick action being take.
The councillor improvement fund will allow councillors to decide alone how the cash is spent, providing at least one of their fellow ward councillors agrees.
Residents will be encouraged to let councillors know how they want to see the money spent during regular councillor surgeries.
A town hall spokesman said: “The new fund is all about two-way, fast track democracy - enabling councillors to make decisions more quickly and providing a more flexible service that’s responsive to public concerns.
“There will also be more emphasis on communicating with the public about services and activities provided by the council and its partner agencies.
“Decision-making will be based on a simple, majority process – requiring two of the three ward councillors to agree on a proposal.”
Deputy council leader Barrie Grunewald (pictured) added: “Many of the issues raised were matters that could be raised in a more timely fashion through existing customer contact arrangements.
“The new system will enhance the role of councillors with members taking a much stronger role in gauging resident’s views. Councillors can establish their own arrangements for meeting with local groups and partners to determine how best to spend the new fund.”
However, St Helens group Liberal Democrat leader Brian Spencer, whose party introduced the concept during their time in office, accused the Labour administration of political spite.
“The ward committees worked - the fact that all the money wasn’t spent doesn’t show it didn’t work but that the people sitting on the ward were being prudent,” he added.
And St Helens Green Party, which fielded candidates in this years local election for the first time, backed calls for the re-instatement of ward committees, pointing out local projects like St Mark’s Centenary Community Garden in Haydock were supported through the scheme.
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