Bailout is delayed by AWOL politician

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Plans to offer a bailout package for Mansfield’s credit union and Citizens Advice Bureau have been further delayed after a public meeting was called off in the eleventh hour.

Coun Roger Sutcliffe was scheduled to sign off a rescue package for the town’s branch of the Nottingham Credit Union at a public meeting on today (Friday, 4th October).

But minutes before the meeting was due to start, a council officer arrived to explain that the meeting had been cancelled and the cabinet member for resources was instead travelling to Norwich.

Coun Sutcliffe had decided to delay the meeting until October 14th, after he discovered that the CAB had been awarded cash from the National Lottery - reported in the Chad a month ago.

It is the latest delay in the council saga, after the authority pledged £45,000 to the credit union and CAB in January.

Members agreed that the cash would be deducted from the £91,094 allocated to cabinet members for expenses during the 2013-14 financial year.

The money was set aside as part of a council bid to support ethical lenders in Mansfield, and fight the booming growth in legal loan sharks.

But politicians have accused Mansfield Mayor Tony Egginton of trying to scupper the deal by delaying the payment.

Responsibility for the bailout has now been passed from Mayor Egginton to Coun Sutcliffe, and the authority is understood to be proposing assistance for both organisations which falls short of the pledged cash.

Labour group deputy leader Coun Sonya Ward, who attended the meeting and is campaigning for the credit union cash, said: “This meeting has already been cancelled once this week and now we have to wait until October 14th for it to happen. If Coun Sutcliffe had arrived at the meeting and explained that he needed more time to consider matters then that is one thing.

“But to travel to Norwich instead and send down a council official to make his excuses is simply inappropriate.”

Rev Keith Hebden, who is also fighting to save the credit union added: “This is the fourth time now that they have deferred this action and I really don’t think that the people of Mansfield will stand for this much longer. We are still where we were four or five months ago. This is contemptible and disgusting behaviour.”

Coun Sutcliffe was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The Chad reported on 11th September that Mansfield’s Citizens Advice Bureau was being awarded £350,000 from the National Lottery.

Of this, only £64,000 can be spent on existing operations. The remainder must be spend on exploring multi-agency and partnership working.

There was no cash set aside for the credit union from Lotto.

Campaigners fighting for the council to honour its £45,000 pledge to both organisations say they now have more than 1,000 petition signatures from people in Mansfield.

They say this will now be used to force a debate at the next full meeting of the council, where Mayor Egginton will be asked to explain why the agreed payment has been delayed since January.

PICTURED: Rev Keith Hebden and Coun Sonya Ward in the empty meeting room at Mansfield District Council.