A CHARITY mobility service that has provided support for up to 50,000 people in West Lothian is being forced to cease operating at the end of the month after the council axed its funding.
Lothian Shopmobility loans wheelchairs and mobility equipment to mainly elderly or disabled shoppers during their visit to The Centre in Livingston. The Evening News told in January how the service was one of many to be fearing for its future as West Lothian Council announced it needed to make cutbacks of £16 million for the 2019/20 budget and £65m by 2022/23 due to “increasing costs and insufficient funding from the Scottish Government”.
Lothian Shopmobility, which has been operating since 1991, has now been told the devastating news that its £39,000 of annual funding has been discontinued with the popular service now to close when the coffers run dry at the end of the month.
Lothian Shopmobility co-ordinator Mike Laidlaw said: “I think it is such a harsh decision by the council because this service is needed by thousands of people.
“Lothian Shopmobility is very valued in the community and users have been left upset as it isn’t just about people doing their shopping, there is the social aspect too to think of.
“It’s going to be a really sad time when we stop the service for West Lothian. We’ve had to make staff redundant through no fault of their own and the people of Livingston, West Lothian and beyond will sorely miss this service.”
Angela Constance, MSP for Almond Valley, criticised the council’s decision but said it was exploring other avenues to continue support for shoppers.
She said: “The Centre is a good place to shop particularly for people with a disability as it’s all on one level.
“I remain deeply disappointed with the approach taken by the council and await a reply to my correspondence with them.”
The service in Edinburgh will remain open after the city council gave the green light to its funding application for this financial year.
West Lothian Council says funds applied for totalled over £1.6m which is significantly higher than the allocated £944,000 it has to allocate to organisations.
A council spokesperson said: “Despite an overall reduction in the amount of funding we can allocate via voluntary organisation grants, a great number of groups and individuals will benefit from the funding. Given budget restrictions the council asked an independent panel to consider all voluntary applications to allocate the £944,000 to organisations who applied for the grant funding.
“They assessed each application and made their decision based on which applications had the greatest impact and were most aligned to the council’s priorities.
“We understand that some organisations will be disappointed with their allocation; however the council has less money to spend than in previous years which makes it impossible for us to maintain the same level grant allocation.
“Specifically council officers will offer to work with the group between now and March in an effort to identify alternative funding arrangements.”