Prentice Centre staff angry over funding deal

Protesters outside the Prentice Centre after the initial announcement of the funding cut. Picture: Lesley Martin
Protesters outside the Prentice Centre after the initial announcement of the funding cut. Picture: Lesley Martin
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ANGRY staff at a popular community centre have warned time is running out as they battle to save it from closure.

The Prentice Centre in West Granton had its funding slashed in March as part of a city-wide shake-up in the provision of vital community services.

Now, unless the council makes good on a promise to help keep it open, the facility faces being forced to shut in just six weeks – leaving hundreds of elderly users with nowhere to go and eight employees redundant.

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Co-ordinator Janet Campbell said the uncertainty had upset service users and left parents at the centre’s playgroup “really angry”.

She said: “Morale is starting to drop now. People don’t know what’s happening.”

She said the facility had applied for more money through the council’s children and families department, but received only 50 per cent of what was needed to keep it going.

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

Its work costs around £146,000 a year to maintain, and while some of this is raised by the centre itself, £89,000 was provided by the council last year. But for the next three years, the grant has been fixed at just £44,000.

However, in April a group of councillors – including transport leader Lesley Hinds, housing leader Cammy Day and deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie – agreed to “front load” the centre’s funding.

This meant two years’ cash would be provided in one go, giving the centre much-needed short-term money to tide it over while staff looked for future funding sources elsewhere.

Ms Campbell said the councillors agreed to “rubber-stamp” this deal at the education, children and families committee – but when the meeting came up last week, the issue wasn’t even on the agenda.

She insisted staff now felt they had been “strung along” by the council, adding: “We were told it would be rubberstamped by [last] Tuesday, end of story. We are still stuck in a place where we don’t know what’s happening – and promises they have made have not been followed through.

“Up until this point we have continued to work as if we are going to be staying open. I’ve been looking at other funding solutions. But this is now starting to sap morale.

“We do a lot of activities encouraging elderly people to remain active. We have a very longrunning over-50s group which meets faithfully every Wednesday.

“The questionnaires we have had returned from that say things like, ‘If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t leave the house’.”

Councillor Cammy Day, who represents Granton, told the Evening News he was “committed” to following through on the deal.

He said there were other ways to rubberstamp it, and added that it had never been certain that it would go before the education, children and families committee. He said: “It’s disappointing to hear that a member of staff from the Prentice Centre has been in touch with the media.”

alistair,grant@jpress.co.uk