Village cash priority - teenage pregnancies

CASH for rural communities including Axbridge, Wedmore, Badgworth and Stone Allerton has to be spent reducing teenage pregnancy rates

CASH for rural communities including Axbridge, Wedmore, Badgworth and Stone Allerton has to be spent reducing teenage pregnancy rates and more activities for the elderly.Money has been allocated to each district to spend on local needs but the funds must be used to reduce teenage conception rates, set up more activities for the elderly and to encourage more young people into education and training.Area Working Panels in each district have been set up by Somerset County Council to decide what the money should be spent on.But parish councils such as Wedmore claim the issues do not affect the smaller rural communities, where people are more concerned about traffic and planning matters.Wedmore Parish Council chairman John Sanderson said: "They are important issues in the broad scheme of things, but they're not burning issues for rural communities like Cheddar and Wedmore."The parish council has come up with a list of alternative suggestions for what it thinks the money should be spent on, including law and order, low cost housing and the environment.The chairman will be reporting back to the Sedgemoor Area Working Panel next month.Area Working Panels have been set up to take over from district councils if the Government decides to make Somerset County Council a unitary authority.Each panel is made up of county councillors who represent that particular area and each member has £15,000 to spend on projects in the district.Alan Ham, Somerset County Councillor for Brent ward, which stretches from Berrow to Compton Bishop and Chapel Allerton, sits on the Sedgemoor Area Working Panel.He said: "The suggestions for funding have to fit in with Government criteria. "But people locally think that more police officers or road improvements should get the funding. It doesn't seem to fit in with rural communities."We have asked the parish councils to come up with suggestions on what they would like the money to be spent on."We will then have to go back to the county executive and say that we don't think the criteria suggested works and say what we would rather the money be spent on."The panels have been set up so that if the unitary bid comes to fruition then obviously there will have to be local arrangements because there will only be one council covering the whole area."It is ultimately hoped all the major budgets including education, social services and highways will be delegated to the panels."But the groups are premature and are doing the work district councils are doing at the moment."A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: "The criterion is guidance, based on the main issues the county council deals with. It's not supposed to be restrictive, it's supposed to be empowering for local communities."If a panel feels an issue is not relevant it can examine other areas to spend the money on.

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