IT is not just Stormont that has a Social Investment Fund. Belfast City Council runs the Belfast Investment Fund and associated Local Investment Fund, with a combined pot of £31 million over three years for ‘community projects’. Alliance has claimed the council funds “aren’t advertised properly in any meaningful way”, leaving “those in the know in prime position to apply and secure huge sums of money.” Current applicants include two community groups in east Belfast run by UDA boss Jimmy Birch, an associate of Dee Stitt. Both men are also on the board of Stormont-funded Charter NI. The similarities do not end there – Alliance has asked the council to advertise and externally audit its funds but this has been voted down by Sinn Féin, the DUP and the UUP. At least the £80m Social Investment Fund is only a tiny fraction of Stormont’s budget. The community project element of the Belfast funds is 7.5 per cent of the council’s annual spending – as much as it devotes to waste disposal or economic development.
[Got to keep those ‘community workers’ in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed… – Ed] Indeed.