Capital abandons 'star turn' charity

A LEADING charity backed by literary celebrities such as JK Rowling, Irvine Welsh and Alexander McCall Smith faces being wound up after being stripped of its funding by a local authority.

The One City Trust, the "pet charity" of Scotland's capital for the past five years, has had the plug pulled on it despite securing the support of a string of high-profile ambassadors.

The venture, which raises money to fund arts, education and social welfare across Edinburgh, has benefited from various celebrity-backed projects, including books, a calendar and a huge "cow parade" staged across the city.

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But now it has been left without any staff and no major projects to work on after senior councillors withdrew their support. It is only being kept running at the moment thanks to donations from businesses which had previously backed the charity.

The council, which put 200,000 into One City to get it off the ground, has confirmed it has axed its 35,000 annual grant, but has blamed the recession for the decision.

City council insiders say the SNP/Lib-Dem coalition running the capital has been reluctant to back the charity because it was set up under the previous Labour regime and was closely linked with former Lord Provost Lesley Hinds. Council leader Jenny Dawe is said to favour setting up a new charity to channel the distribution of funds from various trusts the council holds.

The charity, which was set up to support schemes tackling social exclusion and inequality across Edinburgh, was launched in 2004 after a study found that one in five children in the city were being raised in poverty.

Snooker star Stephen Hendry, entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer and football manager Gordon Strachan were among the other stars to throw their weight behind initiatives to improve the lives of people in some of the most deprived parts of the city.

The creation of the One City Trust was a key recommendation of a 100,000 study, which was chaired by then Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway, and gathered information from more than 300 people.

Among the major projects launched was a collection of short stories by Welsh, Ian Rankin and McCall Smith, which became the city's most borrowed library book. Harry Potter author Rowling wrote the introduction.

However, its last major project, a calendar featuring a host of kilted celebrities, including This Life star Daniela Nardini, made a huge loss and only a few hundred copies were sold.

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One source close to the charity said: "This was a pretty successful charity that came out of a hugely important study.

"It simply hasn't had the kind of support from the council administration that it should have had over the past couple of years and that is why it has all been but wound up. Its future is looking extremely bleak at the moment."

Another insider said: "There is still a lot of support for One City from a lot of councillors and officials but Jenny Dawe has always been against the charity. It was also a pet project of the previous council and was so strongly associated with Lesley Hinds.

"The new administration has had two years to come up with their own ideas and have failed to do so. They should bite the bullet and put some funding back into One City before all the good work's undone."

Leading Labour councillor Ian Murray said: "These kind of initiatives need to have some form of political support if they are to work and it's sad that all the momentum that was built up has now been lost."

Councillor Dawe was unavailable for comment. But a spokeswoman for the council said several elected members – including councillors Dawe and Hinds, as well as current Lord Provost George Grubb – still served as trustees on the charity's board.

She added: "The council also continues to provide the 'protector' role overseeing the administration and financial conduct of the charity. Technical advice and support has been provided for the trust from time to time."

There is no current financial support for the trust from the council and there is no commitment to future funding. "One City is an independent, charitable trust and all decisions about its management and future operations are taken by the trustees," she said.

"Like many trusts, including major funders of the voluntary sector, One City faces much reduced income because of the recession and thus limited activity."