SIR Robert Armstong once said he had been “economical with the truth”. Ex-government minister Alan Clark admitted to being “economical with the actualité”. And now it seems, in these austere times, that reality is no nearer the grasp of others today.
These thoughts came to mind as I read the Letter from Peter Sherlock in the Dispatch regarding Hucknall Rotary Club’s use of the £2,000 grant aid paid to them by Ashfield District Council.
The money was given to the Rotary Club as our contribution to the costs of putting on Hucknall Christmas Carnival last year. As Dispatch readers will know, the exceptionally bad weather meant that the event had to be cancelled and, after a long period of silence, we wrote to the Rotary Club to find out what had happened to the cash. Is that unreasonable?
Weeks went by and when we finally got a reply, it confirmed that most of the money had already been spent on other projects, most notably about £1,000 ‘refurbishing’ the club’s Santa’s Sleigh. Some costs had inevitably been incurred despite the cancellation of the Carnival, said to be about £400, but the Rotary Club had already decided to make private use of the remainder of this public money without asking or telling anyone.
That letter from the club’s treasurer was received back in June. A further letter was issued by the council, asking for more details of just how much of the grant remained in the club’s accounts and for full details of the expenditure already incurred. I have to tell readers that we are still waiting for a reply to that. Is that reasonable?
In that context, when the club applied to the council for a contribution to this year’s Carnival, reservations were naturally voiced about handing more public money to an organisation that had could hardly claim to have been completely open about how it managed the last grant it had received.
Nevertheless, the last thing we wanted to do was to threaten the future of the Christmas Carnival and neither did we have any appetite to turn this issue into a political football. Sadly, while I’m sure that everyone would agree that this year’s Carnival proved to be a great success, others have decided to make ridiculous allegations about my fellow councillors and used this whole affair for their own purposes.
We’ve already read of Conservative county councillor Kevin Rostance’s assurance, and he has repeated that claim to us personally, that all of the council’s grant aid was ring-fenced by the club for the sole purpose of sponsoring the Christmas Carnival. Either Count Rostance was misinformed or the letter written by the Rotary in the summer was inaccurate. Either way, we cannot say how much of Hucknall council taxpayers’ money was spent by the Rotary Club on the Carnival, its sleigh or anything else for that matter.
Since Mr. Sherlock has found time to write to the Dispatch now, perhaps he can do so again and explain to the people of Hucknall how their money was spent.
I make no judgement about the possible merits of its use for the simple reason that I do not know how it has been used. It’s time no-one in Hucknall can have any excuse for saying the same. Elementary, eh, Mr Sherlock?
COUN JIM GRUNDY (Lab),
Hucknall Area Consultative Group,
Ashfield District Council.