Councillors in Stroud have voted to give a grant to an upcoming NHS community celebration, amongst concern the council risked funding a political cause and in turn could be breaking the law.

Stroud Against the Cuts (SATC), a non-party affiliated campaign group protesting the privatisation of the NHS and cuts to its cash, will be receiving £1,000 from the town council to help pay for its celebrations of the health service’s 70th birthday.

“We hope to encourage Stroud residents to celebrate and reflect on the principles of the NHS and their value,” SATC’s James Beecher told councillors as they debated the grant application at their annual meeting on Monday, May 14.

To mark 70 years since the NHS was founded, SATC will host an all-day celebration event on Saturday, July 7 at Lansdown Hall and Bank Gardens, including videos, talks, displays and stalls from professional health associations, trade unions, and health support groups.

The group is also organising an exhibition from July 25 to July 1 in Lansdown Gallery on how the NHS is financed, and a coach to take campaigners to the #OurNHS70 celebration and demonstration in London on June 30 - though it's not asking for the council to pay for the bus.

It is also encouraging local trades, churches, the library, doctors’ surgeries, schools and other organisations to decorate their windows or have a display area with an NHS theme.

Upon hearing the plans, some councillors voiced fears they could be funding political activity which, in their view, would be an inappropriate use of public money.

“The objectives of the organisation are clearly political,” responded town councillor Chas Townley (Uplands Ward, Labour).

"I think this would be a very good event - but whether it should be funded by a public body is a different matter."

Mr Beecher reassured councillors that SATC’s events “would not be derogatory of any specific party.”

“We won’t be singling out anybody,” he underlined, explaining SATC would use the council’s cash only to fund the event insofar as it represented a community celebration.

Other councillors who had attended previous NHS birthdays organised by SATC reaffirmed Mr Beecher's insistence the event would not be political.

The grant comes from the town council’s community support fund which, according to their website, is there to “help groups and organisations that work to strengthen Stroud’s community.”

SATC wants the council to pay £1,000 from a total £2,321 spend which would include: hire of Lansdown Gallery and Lansdown Hall (£366), the costs of the exhibition (£350), publicity (£310), insurance (£120), costs of speakers and entertainment (£300), hire of a marquee (£250), materials from NHS campaign groups (£250), decoration materials like bunting (£75) and a photographer to make a video and photographic record of SATC and Stroud “as a vibrant town supporting our public services (£200).

Councillors approved the grant with 11 votes in favour, 3 against and 1 abstention, but on the condition that the town clerk checks SATC’s receipts to ensure none of the town’s money is spent on anything overtly political.


The town council has since issued a statement clarifying its decision. It reads:

"At a full council meeting of Stroud Town Council, councillors did not make a final decision to approve the grant to Stroud Against the Cuts.

"It was agreed in principle but with the final decision was delegated to the town clerk.

"A meeting between the town clerk and organisers from Stroud Against the Cuts will be held later this week.

"The town clerk will seek clarification to ensure that the council is not funding “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.

"If the funding application does not fit the criteria then the funding will not be released."