Stroud Town Council has decided not to award a grant to an upcoming NHS celebration because of concerns that it could become a political event.
At a council meeting, concern was expressed that the events might be overtly political and not therefore suitable for council funding.
Councillors had agreed in principle to approve a grant to Stroud Against the Cuts (SAC) but with the final decision was delegated to the town clerk.
Following a meeting with organisers from Stroud Against the Cuts, Town Clerk Helen Bojaniwska, decided that there was a risk of the event becoming overly political.
A council cannot fund “material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party”, in contravention to Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986.
Town Mayor Kevin Cranston said: “The Town Clerk firmly believes that the majority of the activities planned are completely consistent with a celebration of the NHS, for which the Council expressed a willingness to provide grant funding.
“SAC has also offered to either remove or modify some elements that might be regarded as overly political or critical of a political party.
“Whilst SAC are not a political party or affiliated to one, they do have a history of protesting about political issues and in the recent past have published material designed to influence voting at elections, as evidenced by their newsletters, social media and website.
“The Clerk has rightly also taken into account that even if SAC comply with any conditions that the Council might attach to any grant funding, the event will involve a number of other organisations which are likely to present material “designed to affect public support for a political party”.
“Therefore it would not be appropriate, or lawful, for the Council to issue a grant for this event. The Town Council has always championed the local NHS and has held public meetings and lobbied to protect the services in the town.
“But we must also work within the confines of legislation and the Council does not feel it is appropriate to provide funding for this event.
“Nobody should take this decision as a sign that the Town Council isn’t fully supportive of the NHS. The Town Council is unanimous in valuing the NHS as a vital part of national and local life.”