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Budget cut leaves group in dark

By GRANT MILLER - The Manawatu Standard
9 Feb 2010

Neighbourhood Support, which has lost nearly a third of its Palmerston North City Council funding for the next three years, must wait to see if councillors give it a top-up.

The agency will get $24,000 plus GST per year in the next three years down from the $35,000 plus GST it had received previously.

The cut came when an independent panel allocated the city council's major grants. At the council's community well-being committee meeting yesterday Neighbourhood Support asked the council to fund the $11,000 shortfall. The committee stopped short of flatly rejecting the request.

Funding of safety and security initiatives will be revisited this year when councillors debate what should and shouldn't be included in the next annual plan.

Palmerston North Neighbourhood Support field officer Warren Wealleans told the committee his organisation had serious concerns about the sustainability of the service because of the funding cut.

Mr Wealleans said the previous level of funding allowed Neighbourhood Support to employ a field officer and administrative support, to help reduce crime across the city and encourage people to be prepared for natural disasters.

Neighbourhood Support has been operating in Palmerston North for 25 years.

Mayor Jono Naylor said the council had empowered an independent panel to make decisions on its behalf and it should live with the results.

Deputy mayor John Hornblow said the council shouldn't undermine its own process.

Granting an increase would show the council didn't back the community group that allocated the funding, he said.

"I can't support a change of process at this stage," he said.

"It's very sad that money has been cut ... that is the process."

Just over half of Neighbourhood Support's funding came from the council.

Councillor Michael Feyen said $11,000 was a small price to pay to help the police do their job.

Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin said police needed community backing and Neighbourhood Support helped to reduce crime in the city.

The number of "suspicious person calls" to police was one measure that showed the system worked. Overseas studies also showed Neighbourhood Watch initiatives helped reduce crime.

Committee chairman Lew Findlay said the council did not give clear directions to the committee that allocated the major grants money.

"We can't point the finger at the allocation committee ... We slipped up."


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