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March 11, 2003

Councillors ’ cash clash

From: News Shopper, UK - 11 Mar 2003

TWO Bexley councillors are both claiming credit for finding the cash to send parents of profoundly deaf children on a sign language course.

Tory councillor Sharon Massey sent out a press release claiming she had changed the council's mind about finding £1,000 for the British sign language course.

"I am delighted to have helped overturn this decision," she said. "It is a pity the Labour administration was not prepared to fund this course but I am glad common sense has prevailed at last."

But her decision has infuriated Labour councillor Donna Briant, who has cabinet responsibility for health and social services.

She told News Shopper it was she who found the extra money in order to pay for the course.

She said the application for the £1,000 funding was made to partnership money shared between the council and Bexley Primary Care Trust.

"But it came in late and didn't meet all the criteria, so it wasn't included in the schemes paid for by the partnership," she explained.

"But it was such a good idea, I said I would still like to fund it, if we could find some other way of paying for it."

She discussed it with officers and eventually they found the cash from another source, the Quality Protects programme.

"Instead of promoting the fact we had done it, we just did it. The first I heard about Councillor Massey getting involved was the call from News Shopper."

Cllr Massey had also raised another funding issue at the council meeting on February 26, when she asked council leader Cllr Chris Ball to find an extra £50 for a Bexley Women's Aid project, working with children who have witnessed domestic violence.

"Women's Aid asked for £300 but Cllr Briant has only offered £250. If I called in the decision, it would cost more than £50 to discuss it," she said. Cllr Ball replied "I am sure we can find the other £50."

Again Cllr Masseys intervention angered Cllr Briant. "I am yet to sign the final decision over the grants," she said.

She added: "I am pleased Cllr Massey is interested in these issues, but it would be helpful if she would talk to me as I would have with my Tory predecessor instead of playing politics with very important issues in people's lives."