Lack of fair funding for councils is hitting most-deprived areas hard – Foysol Choudhury

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In Edinburgh, we’ve seen more and more well-loved community facilities close.

You only have to walk around the city to see the boarded-up Filmhouse, the empty Gorgie City Farm, the closed Prentice Centre or the struggling Muirhouse Millennium Centre, which houses the Lift project. For the latter, there is still hope, but only if funding from the Scottish Government to Edinburgh Council is increased and not ringfenced for national priorities, so that councillors can deliver lifeline services to local communities.

Citizens up and down Scotland depend on these community facilities, especially during the cost-of-living crisis where food banks and ‘warm banks’ have become a lifeline for many households. For those in the most deprived areas of Edinburgh struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, this lack of funding from the Scottish Government is a devastating blow.

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The children who use the Lift programme at the Muirhouse Millennium Centre recently wrote a poem highlighting the importance of this community lifeline for them and imploring people to take action to prevent its closure:

"Now we are hearing, our safe place may close

Where will we go, nobody knows.

Councillors, politicians, and Nicola too

Help the bairns oot,

Locals hope to save the Muirhouse Millennium Centre.Locals hope to save the Muirhouse Millennium Centre.
Locals hope to save the Muirhouse Millennium Centre.

What can you do?”

These children who use Lift evidently rely on the service, as demonstrated by the turnout at Edinburgh City Chambers for the recent deputation to councillors.

Acting Finance Secretary John Swinney recently told me that the 2023/24 Budget was focused on “eradicating child poverty”. If this is the case, I implore the Scottish Government to provide greater funding and flexibility to local authorities, so that they have the necessary funds to support projects like Lift which focus on tackling that very problem.

Cuts to council budgets are affecting the services provided to children in school, as well as outside of school. A constituent of mine recently raised concerns about cuts to cleaning staff and breakfast clubs. If the council’s hand is forced and cuts like these occur, it will have a devastating impact on our children.

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My constituent gave the shocking example of a school where there was excrement on the toilet walls. Without sufficient cleaner cover, these are the types of environments our children may be forced to learn in. I’ll be chasing up this matter of funding for education services in Lothian. I’m determined that our children won’t suffer the blow of losing both their educational and community lifelines.

Unless the Scottish Government increases funding to local authorities, there will not be the necessary funds to support essential community centres such as Muirhouse Millennium Centre. I’ll continue to support community groups, to highlight their concerns, campaign for extra resources and fight for funding to not be cut from local Lothian groups. I’ll be arranging a visit to Muirhouse Millennium Centre in the coming weeks and I’ve been raising awareness of their plight with the First Minister. I didn’t think the First Minister’s answer to me was sufficient and I’ll keep working on this issue to ensure that the Scottish Government takes responsibility for spending cuts to local councils.

Let us all say, “enough is enough”, and put pressure on the Scottish Government to increase council funding. I for one will continue to press the government to deliver a fair deal for Lothian councils.

Foysol Choudhury is a Scottish Labour MSP for Lothian

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