COUNCILLORS are going to have to get meaner when deciding on what grants to give out to groups in the years ahead.

Members of Wellington Town Council’s finance committee agreed on Monday (March 12) that a new policy would have to be drawn up to stop them going over the allocated budget for grants.

Groups, organisations and charities go to the council each year asking for financial support to help fund events or services.

But the problem being is that councillors have struggled to say “no” to applicants and regularly go over the budget setting.

For the 2024-25 financial year the council has set a budget of £15,000 for grants and councillors said they need to stick to it.

Cllr Justin Cole said the council needed to look at the policy as a whole for providing grants and longer-term service level agreements which amounted to £64,873 in the past year.

“We need to look at all of it because at the moment we just keep spending money,” he said.

Cllr John Thorne added: “The days of giving out grants like we used to are long gone. We should have people applying to us for grants, but once that £15,000 has been reached, some will miss out. That’s how it should work, but it doesn’t.”

The Mayor, Cllr Marcus Barr, added that they needed to take a new approach to grants with the council’s resources being stretched in view of the financial emergency which has crippled Somerset Council.

“We can’t keep giving money away because of the way things are at the moment,” he said. “We don’t say “no” to anybody and we really do have to start saying “no” – we have to.”

Cllr Mike McGuffie said: “We support people and groups that we think will make a difference to the town. We have set our budget for 2024-25, but we have to have some flexibility and as long as we don’t break the bank too much it should be ok.”

It was argued that looking at lone grant applications on a month-by-month basis made it difficult to say “no” and a new approach was needed.

“It’s very hard to say “no” when grants are looked at in isolation,” said Cllr Cole.

Cllr Catherine Govier suggested it might be easier to keep a tighter hold of the purse strings by looking at grant applications on a three-monthly basis.

“We need to consider more applications at once – perhaps we should be looking at them every quarter?” she suggested. “We do still need to have grants, but we need a better way of doing them.”

Cllr Janet Lloyd suggested that there should be leeway to help groups wanting “emergency grants.”

But Cllr Cole said: “If you look at them quarterly you have to stick to that and stick to the £15,000 budget. I couldn’t agree with having an emergency pot.”

Councillors agreed that grants should be looked at every quarter and that a “conversation” would be had about any emergency applications being received.