Community groups band together to fight council budget cuts

COMMUNITY groups across the Capital have banded together to fight proposals to slash budgets.

The Evening News revealed last week that city council officials have drawn up a hit list of 96 proposed cuts to third party funding for the year beginning in April.

But a series of groups have launched campaigns to fight the cuts, which have been proposed as a way to combat a projected 90 million funding shortfall over the next three years.

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Two volunteer representative groups and an organisation that represents youth clubs have sent a joint letter to all councillors pleading with them to avoid the cuts.

Councillors have been inundated with calls from community centres, youth clubs and local trusts urging them to fight the cuts.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has also called for finance secretary John Swinney to intervene.

Under the proposals, which are still to be discussed by councillors, some groups would face losing all of their council funding.

In a joint letter to all councillors, the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council, Lothian Association of Youth Clubs and Volunteer Centre Edinburgh, which together represent more than 1,000 organisations in Edinburgh, said: "Many organisations have seen an increase in the demand for their services as a result of the impact of the recession.

"More people are seeking volunteer opportunities to enhance their employability. The sector has addressed and managed this despite year-on-year cuts or, at best, standstill core grants from the council.

"In the current financial climate, we are convinced that protecting social value and high-quality services is vital to maintaining the quality of life for Edinburgh's citizens."

Across all departments, a total of 1.5m of cuts are proposed by council officials. Councillors will make a final decision on the headline figure next week, before discussing details on an individual grant-by-grant basis next month.

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The SCVO is also concerned about a proposed 72 per cent reduction in council funding for its Eke-Out Project, which oversees a network of voluntary organisations for children and families and currently receives 139,360 a year from the council.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive of the SCVO, said: "John Swinney has repeatedly said that involving the voluntary sector in planning local services is vital if we're to deliver top quality public services. And yet, the city council's proposal directly contradicts a key government priority. We are calling on the finance secretary to intervene to prevent this disastrous proposal from becoming a reality."

As well as the SCVO, dozens of groups have been urging councillors to resist the cuts.

Bosses at Hutchison Vale football club say they are considering relaunching the Unite The Clubs Forum, set up in 2006 to protest about "third world" pitches.

Coach Tam Smith, who helped lead thousands of youngsters in a march through the city in 2007, said: "We've got the council cutting all these allowances and putting up the prices of facilities at the same time. It flies in the face of what happens in other countries."

Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said he had been "awash" with contact from groups, including the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, which faces losing a third of its 8,500 grant, and the Gorgie/Dalry Community Association, which would lose its full 23,343 funding.

"Council revenue is actually going up and this council has never had as much money as it will have in 2011," he said.

"It would be a gross error of judgement to reduce funding as savagely as proposed."

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The council insisted it will make the "right decisions" on third party grants. In a letter to the SCVO, council leader Jenny Dawe said she was "dismayed" at the suggestion that Mr Swinney should intervene in city council decisions. She said: "This displays a complete lack of understanding of the relationship between the Scottish Government and local authorities."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "It is vital that Scotland's third sector plays a full and active part in helping to shape and deliver local services.

"While it is clearly for individual councils to make their own budgetary decisions, local government in Scotland – including Edinburgh City Council – is continuing to receive an increasing share of the overall funding available to the Scottish Government."

Footballers cry foul as grant is slashed

SUCH has been the impact Hutchison Vale football club has had on its local community, the city council is giving it a civic reception.

But at the same time as helping it celebrate its 70th anniversary, council officials propose withdrawing all of its funding.

It has already seen its council grant fall from 1,100 in 2008-9 to only 288 in 2009-10, but that would disappear entirely under the proposals.

Coach Tam Smith said: "Twenty years ago, Hutchison Vale were one of the smaller clubs, with only five or six teams. Now we've got 32 and a thriving women's section.

"Groups like us are trying to do something in this city, yet we're just seeing these kinds of cuts. It's short-sighted from the council and there's been no communication."


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IN AN area with a shortage of facilities for children, Currie Youth Club sees itself as essential for the community.

The Lanark Road West centre runs football and basketball clubs for children, as well as providing space for music, theatre and gymnastics.

For 2009-10, it received a 5,480 council grant, used to pay for cleaning, maintenance, insurance, safety and fire protection.

But under the proposals, it would lose all its funding.

Conservative councillor Jason Rust, whose ward includes Currie, said: "Currie Youth Club is a key local facility. I have concerns regarding any removal of the grant and the effect on the future of the centre and the activities provided to the community."