Watchdog body criticises Fenland District Council for the way it handled arts funding request

Fenland Poet Laureate Elaine Ewart with Atelier East's Karen Harvey and the newly published Fenland

Fenland Poet Laureate Elaine Ewart with Atelier East's Karen Harvey and the newly published Fenland Poet Laureate book. - Credit: Archant

A WATCHDOG group has criticised Fenland District Council for the way it handled a funding application by a local arts group.

Atelier East applied for help to support the poet laureate competition but after being told by officers to expect financial help councillors over-ruled them and said the arts group plea had been turned down.

Karen Harvey, who runs Atelier East, had her application rejected last year, despite scoring 80 per cent in its assessment.

Officers who initially looked at the bid said it provided new opportunities for residents to get involved in the arts.

They also said the project helped develop literacy skills and gave opportunities to work with children and young people.

However, after being scrutinised, the bid was unsuccessful due to limited funds.

Alan Pain, Fenland’s corporate director, said the council decided to withhold funding with a view to reviewing new requests for funding, but Atelier East’s bid, when reassessed, was again unsuccessful.

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Ms Harvey said: “In my original letter dated August 1, 2012, I asked if I could appeal and if I could have a meeting with the decision-making board so that I could explain further the importance and developments of the project.

“My request was ignored and I didn’t receive the opportunity to give more information.”

This week the Government Ombudsman ruled that the council should revise the way they deal with funding applications.

Ms Harvey said: “The Government Ombudsman did find fault with the council, and have suggested they make revisions to their processes.

“They decided not to take it further, which I agree with because it would be a waste of GO time and money, but hopefully FDC will do things better in the future and it will mean that people who are trying to do good for their communities, I don’t just mean me, I mean all the people who squeeze time in to help others, won’t have their time wasted or be lead on.”

“I feel a lot better to think we didn’t waste our time, and there is a positive outcome.”

A spokesman from FDC said: ““We appreciate the Ombudsman’s comments and have taken them on board.”

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