Homeless lose meal as city spends £30k on provost portraits

Tony Winters fears vulnerable people will turn to crime
Tony Winters fears vulnerable people will turn to crime
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COUNCIL chiefs have sent a letter to homeless people in bed and breakfast accommodation telling them their breakfasts are being scrapped to save money.

It announced that from next month, the council will pay for accommodation only – and officials enclosed a list of “free food agencies which might be of assistance to you”.

One homeless man warned the move would mean people having to steal just to eat.

The council defended the policy change, but said the letter had been issued in error and claimed the plan was still only “being consulted on”.

The news came as the council confirmed it was to press ahead with plans to spend £30,000 on portraits of two lord provosts.

Opposition parties said the move to do away with breakfasts was “truly dreadful” and Shelter said it would strip vulnerable people of even more dignity.

There are around 300 single people and couples currently in city B&B accommodation. The letter said: “Because of the financial situation the council is currently facing it can no longer afford to pay for the provision of breakfast when providing ‘bed and breakfast’ temporary accommodation. As of 12 December we will only pay the accommodation charge.”

Tony Winters, 43, who has been homeless for more than two years and stays in a B&B at Leith Links, said: “Why is it, two-thirds of the way through the financial year, before Christmas, they have decided to stop giving breakfast to people who are now going to go out and steal to feed themselves?

“Why have these funds been recalled and what are they going to be used for – tram lines on Princes Street, by any chance?”

Mr Winters said the cost of the breakfast – fruit juice, scrambled egg, sausage, beans, toast and coffee – had been calculated at 13p per head per day. He said: “To a lot of people that one meal gets them by, just and no more.”

Josiah Lockhart, general manager of the Grassmarket Community Project, one of the “free food agencies” listed, said it had not been consulted.

He said the project, which opens at lunchtimes, had seen a steep rise in demand in the past few months and sometimes had hour-long queues outside.

“We’re not in a position to provide breakfasts,” he said.

Edinburgh’s Labour group leader Andrew Burns said: “This appears to be a truly dreadful decision.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This move by the council strips even more dignity from vulnerable homeless people it has chosen to put up.”

A council spokesman said: “This letter was issued in error as the proposal is currently being consulted on.”

...but look what is still on the menu

Edinburgh City Council is pressing ahead with plans to spend up to £30,000 on portraits of provosts.

There was outrage earlier this year when the Evening News revealed the council’s plans to spend the cash on a stained glass window of a former Lord Provost and an oil painting of the current one. The scheme was suspended in March after councillors ordered officials to think again about the costs of the “vanity” project.

But despite the scale of the £1bn trams fiasco that has since emerged, the council has confirmed it is going ahead with the provost pictures. A spokeswoman refused to say how much would eventually be spent on the images but confirmed that “appropriate, cost- effective ways of commemorating the periods of office of the Lord Provosts are being pursued”.

The protraits will be of Lesley Hinds, Lord Provost between 2003 and 2007, and the current First Citizen George Grubb.

A spokesman for Taxpayer Scotland said: “Have the council got no shame? Of course it is good to recognise the work of local figures but in these times of austerity it would be far better to have donations made privately.”

Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “At a time when the council is suffering drastic cuts to its budget, it is not a good idea to go spending money on things that aren’t absolutely important.

“The job of Lord Provost is a tough one, you’re making about eight or nine hundred engagements a year.

“But spending quite significant amounts of money when the council is suffering from drastic cuts is all wrong.”