Warning as grants funding increased

The Dunedin City Council has moved to lift funding for community grants, but should prepare for even more applications in future as other providers are squeezed, councillors have been told.

The warning came at yesterday's long-term plan deliberations as Cr Richard Thomson pushed to increase grants funding to match consumer price index (CPI) increases from 2016-17 onwards.

That would increase total council grants spending worth about $1.8 million, which was already allocated for distribution each year.

However, with demand for council grants predicted to grow, as gaming trusts and other providers were squeezed across the country, a budgeted CPI increase ''would be easier for us in the long-run'', Cr Thomson said.

His move came after council staff agreed with a suggestion by Cr Andrew Whiley that small groups would suffer as more funding from trusts went to larger projects.

That included projects such as the proposed Mosgiel aquatic facility and the Dunedin Hospital therapeutic pool, he said.

''There's only so much money and I can see a lot of smaller groups really struggling to find funding,'' he said.

Cr John Bezett supported the increase, but warned councillors the need to find more funding for community groups would be an ''ongoing problem''.

Cr Lee Vandervis opposed the increase, saying it could not be justified without evidence of the value the grants delivered.

Cr Hilary Calvert supported the increase, but cautioned councillors to be very careful giving out money ''stolen'' from ratepayers.

''This is money we have taken from ratepayers ... We should be very careful about how much of that we are prepared to do.''

Cr Kate Wilson disagreed, saying the distribution of grants was ''a privilege and a duty'' and the council was ''not stealing the money''.

''They are groups that just make the city work, at a whole lot of levels.''

Cr Thomson said, as ''the chair of the committee for laundering stolen money'', he felt the council had a ''moral obligation'' to support groups that delivered much more back to the city than the value of the council's contribution.

Councillors voted to endorse the increase, only Cr Vandervis voting against the move.

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