A PILOT project aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and improve environments by pumping public money into small-scale community initiatives could be extended in future if it proves successful.

Darlington Borough Council’s leading members are set to approve giving each of its elected councillors £1,000 to spend on grass roots schemes, with an ambition to bring communities together and make them more resilient, vibrant and stronger.

It has been suggested the Stronger Communities Fund could be used to support non-profit groups with rent or events, help people to excel in sport or education, provide equipment for those in need of support and contribute to facilities such as a park bench or play equipment.

The move follows similar schemes run by other local authorities proving successful and receiving cross-party approval. In neighbouring North Yorkshire elected members are given discretion over up to £10,000 to spend in their wards.

The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Jonathan Dulston said it was hoped the grants would be directed towards projects that benefited communities but may ordinarily be overlooked.

He said the authority would ensure grant applications had a quick turnaround and funding released as easily as possible to ensure support was available when it was most needed.

Cllr Dulston said: “This is very much a trial. We imagine the Stronger Communities Fund will be one that develops in time.

“This is about us giving councillors the autonomy to look at grass roots projects that haven’t been picked up as part of national grant schemes, such as Scouts groups that may be feeling the pinch.”

Green Party group leader Councillor Matthew Snedker said the scheme would increase the visibility for residents of what happens to their council tax.

He said while the funds could enable groups to approach other charities, such as the County Durham Foundation, to match-fund schemes, questions remained whether some parts of the borough needed more help than others.

Cllr Snedker added: “This is a good way of showing community involvement and I’m sure events will happen that wouldn’t otherwise have done because of the communities fund.”