Festivals to lose spark with £2.6m grants axe

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FESTIVALS, arts venues, community groups and voluntary organisations are set to face a savage £2.6 million cut to their funding.

City council chiefs today proposed a series of cuts to a wide range of organisations, from the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe to dementia care providers, citizens advice groups and organisations that tackle unemployment.

The cuts amount to a ten per cent reduction in the 25m the council spent this year on providing grants and funding to groups and organisations.

The extent of the cuts proposed have led to fears about groups going out of business.

Every organisation that receives funding from the council's culture and sport department will see an average reduction of four per cent compared with last year.

There will also be a 2m cut to grants previously provided under the banner of the Fairer Scotland Fund.

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But council chiefs decided to freeze the grants to most groups that provide services to young people and the elderly.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of trade union Unison, said: "Many of the organisations the council supports are providing important services in Edinburgh.

"This is just the same as cutting public services, it is just that some of these groups are not big enough to take the cut and some will have to close."

Two groups face losing all of their council funding. The Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association is having its 12,000 grant withdrawn because it did not comply with conditions set on its 2010-11 funding, while North Edinburgh Dementia Care will lose its 8472 funding because investment is planned to an alternative provider.

Other cuts include Citizens Advice Edinburgh, which will see its 150,000 grant reduce by 6000, while Theatre Workshop, which helps people on the margins of society to tell stories through art, faces a 37 per cent funding cut to 50,000.

Those who have received Fairer Scotland Funding in the past will see an average eight per cent reduction. The cuts include a 300,000 reduction for the Capital City Partnership, which helps people back into employment, to 450,000.

Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: "This will have a massive impact. In our (opposition] budget, we've found savings from back office functions and reducing the use of consultants. They could do that, too."

Councillors still need to decide whether to accept the proposed 2.6m cuts at a meeting next Thursday.

Cllr Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "The council has applied the same principle regarding savings to third-party grants as it has to spending across the board."