Edinburgh Council slammed for community funding shake-up

Protesters outside the Prentice Centre in Granton. Picture: Lesley Martin
Protesters outside the Prentice Centre in Granton. Picture: Lesley Martin
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A DRIVE to shake up the provision of vital community services across the city has been branded a disaster.

Long-established community groups running youth projects, old folk’s lunch clubs and mums and toddlers’ sessions were told they would have to compete with new providers for a reduced pot of cash from the city council.

When long-standing, good-quality projects are gazumped by smooth-talking national organisations it cannot be right that form-filling wins over quality local projects serving all our communities.

Cammy Day

But the scoring system used to assess the rival bids left some of the most active community projects on the verge of losing their grants altogether. Meanwhile, other valued local schemes have seen their funding slashed, while larger city-wide or national organisations have been given cash.

Cammy Day, Labour councillor for Forth ward, spoke out at the children and families committee which agreed the grants, highlighting the plight of the Prentice Centre in West Granton, which has had its funding halved.

He said: “When long-standing, good-quality projects are gazumped by smooth-talking national organisations it cannot be right that form-filling wins over quality local projects serving all our communities.

“Projects with six-figure sums in their bank accounts should not be the priority that this administration funds. It’s just wrong.

“Projects like the Prentice Centre have been built and named by local activists whose families have been active in that community and set the centre up and are under real threat of closure, along with the projects based there, including Children First, North West Carers and many more,

“Politically, I don’t think we have managed this very well and I don’t think senior members of the department have led this process well.”

Another senior source inside the administration said: “Every­one thinks it has been a bit of a disaster.

“There’s nothing wrong with trying to bring in some new blood and encourage more organisations. But you have good local projects which are well thought of on the ground who are now suffering and national organisations which appear to be more successful.”

The Prentice Centre, funded by the council since it opened in 1993, runs a popular playgroup, award-winning adult education classes and exercise sessions for older people.

But co-ordinator Janet Campbell said all that was now at risk. The centre and its work cost around £146,000 a year. It raises up to £45,000 a year itself and this year got £89,000 from the council’s children and families department plus an early years’ playgroup grant of £13,000. But for the next three years the grant has been fixed at £44,000.

Ms Campbell said the cut was “unmanageable”. She said: “Unless we can encourage the council to reverse their decision, the Prentice Centre is under threat of closure, possibly for good.”

Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre was set to lose all its funding after doing badly in the scoring exercise, but along with five other groups has now been given one year’s finance at 95 per cent of the previous level – amounting to £37,205.

Lesley Hinds, councillor for Inverleith and Labour candidate for Edinburgh Northern & Leith in the May election, said: “I was told there was nothing wrong with what the centre was doing, but it did not score highly compared with other organisations. No account was taken of all it had done in the past.”

Committee leader Paul Godzik said: “This has been a hugely challenging process for everybody involved. I don’t think it has cast the council in the best light.

“We’ve opened up our grant process for the first time in many years and that is right and proper. We are reducing the available funding and it has affected many organisations that have been funded by the council for many years and do a huge range of very good work. But we are funding a whole host of new organisations and they are going to target some of the aspects this council wants to address.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com