Birmingham City Council slammed over mountain of red tape

VOLUNTARY groups wishing to help out Birmingham social services by looking after elderly people have been told they must wade through a 145-page application form if they want to apply for city council grants.

The Grant Funding Framework and Toolkit contains extensive information about the standards volunteers must meet, from accounting procedures to health and safety policies and the need to conduct Criminal Records Bureau checks on any staff they employ.

Council leaders insisted the form was necessary to safeguard the use of public money by bringing the grant regime under closer scrutiny.

But the new approach was slammed as a “bureaucratic nightmare” by Sir Albert Bore, leader of the council’s opposition Labour group.

Sir Albert (Lab, Ladywood) said he feared smaller organisations would be put off applying for grants by the mountain of paperwork.

He added: “You have to ask how many people are going to be prepared to plough through this?”

The application process was criticised as “being out of proportion” by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

An NCVO spokeswoman said: “A 145-page application form is poor practice and cannot be justified.

“We understand that councils have to be responsible for public funds, but things have to be proportionate.

“The relationship between a council and a voluntary group has to be based on trust, and I don’t think you can have much trust in a 145-page document.”

The paperwork left one prominent third sector leader “speechless”.

Dr Anita Halliday, chief executive of the St Paul’s Community Development Trust in Birmingham, said the council’s approach appeared to favour large private sector organisations with access to paid professional help in putting together bids for funding.

Deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley defended the paperwork.

Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem, Sheldon) added: “If you are a voluntary organisation you should be professional enough to complete application forms for substantial amounts of money.”