A critical report has underlined several issues regarding the allocation of funding by Larne Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).
An independent review of Larne PCSP, commissioned by the Northern Ireland Policing Board and carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), raised a number of concerns over the body’s funding process and procedures.
And the authors made 22 recommendations in a bid to address the issues highlighted.
The report stated that in the 2012/13 financial year, the PCSP had committed its available budget to funding one particular scheme.
As a result, the PCSP’s financial position was at a deficit and no money was available to fund any additional projects.
It was also noted in that in December 2012, members of Larne Town/Estates Locality Group were asked to bring forward ideas for projects to be funded by the PCSP.
Three projects were submitted for consideration, including a request for the purchase of disco lights for a facility in Seacourt, installation of solar lights at Craigyhill, and an evening for vulnerable adults at Tullygarley.
The latter two projects were awarded funding by the PCSP, but the Seacourt proposal was unsuccessful – which prompted a complaint from the applicant.
PwC found that this decision had been taken by some senior members without the approval of the PCSP.
The report also found that members of Larne PCSP had received no training around processes for idenitifying projects and allocating funding.
It was recommended that appropriate training should be delievered “to allow members to carry out their duties”.
Also, the authors found that the chief executive of Larne Borough Council, Geraldine McGahey, “routinely attends” PCSP meetings to “provide support” to council officers– which is not the case in other council areas.
PwC recommended that Larne adopt a similar approach to other PCSPs, where chief executives’ attendance is normally “at the request or invitation of the committee”.
Chairman of Larne PCSP, Councillor Mark McKinty, said the partnership has accepted PwC’s recommendations.
He added: “When I took over as chairman in June 2013, the PCSP’s budget had been frozen while this review was being carried out.
“I was in constant contact with the Policing Board and have lodged complaints as our hands were tied in terms of being able to do anything practical.
“I did, however, negotiate a package of extraordinary funding to permit us to implement a Cyber Bullying scheme.
“This will be going live very shortly and will hopefully have a positive impact on the well-being of our young people.
“Longer-term, we are working on plans to implement a programme which will have a significant positive impact on community safety for all residents of this borough,” he added.
Mrs McGahey said the independent review of Larne PCSP has provided a “direction for future activities”.
The chief executive, who is responsible for the PCSP’s budget, told the Larne Times she welcomed the findings of the report, adding: “It gives clarity to the issues to be addressed.”
And she said an action plan has now been developed by the PCSP to address all matters raised and “develop the key actions moving forward”.
The Larne Times asked Mrs McGahey about PWC’s finding that senior members made funding decisions without the PCSP’s approval.
The report stated that the decision had been taken by the Community Safety Managerial partnership, a group set up by the chief executive made up of representatives from the local authority, the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Probation Board.
Mrs McGahey said: “The role of the CSMP was to consider issues that had been raised at locality meetings and where these fell within the remit of particular organisations, the officers ensured that adequate resources were directed to address the matter.
“The CSMP did not have a funding role except where there was an identified underspend in the community safety budget at the end of each financial year.
“The last time that the CSMP undertook this role was in February 2013, when a small fund was made available to which communities were invited to make application so that funding could be spent before March 31, 2013.
“The recommendations of the CSMP were reported back to the PCSP at that time.
“As this was at the end of the first financial year of the PCSP, there was no further role for the CSMP and it has not met since that time.”