Steve Cardownie: Needy kids don’t need a row over Christmas

Capital X-Factor contestant Caitlyn Vanbeck performs at last week's Forth Awards
Capital X-Factor contestant Caitlyn Vanbeck performs at last week's Forth Awards
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At the Radio Forth Awards event held in the Usher Hall last Thursday afternoon, the station’s best-known broadcasters and hosts Boogie and Arlene departed from the usual programme by taking to the stage at the start to make an impassioned plea to the audience.

They wanted to make it abundantly clear that certain accusations ­levelled against the Cash for Kids ­Mission Christmas appeal were without ­foundation and that they had ­absolute faith in the integrity of the charity which they support on the airwaves of Radio Forth.

This stemmed from an accusation by a community group, Helping Hands Edinburgh, which called into question the effectiveness of Cash for Kids and alleged that Bauer Media, the German company behind the campaign, made “huge” profits from their involvement – a claim strenuously denied by Bauer which said it was “unsubstantiated and untrue”.

In a video distributed through social media by Helping Hands, it was alleged that the “heartless” company exploited the goodwill of Edinburgh residents and accused it of “failing the very children living in poverty it claims to assist”.

It goes on to say that Bauer, which owns Radio Forth, was only interested in cash donations and did not want to shoulder the responsibility of distributing toys and gifts throughout the city. So Helping Hands agreed to deliver presents to the city’s poor and disadvantaged but in doing so they say that their suspicions were raised over the integrity of the campaign.

In the video, Helping Hands alleged that in the lead-up to Christmas 2017 “despite receiving over £1.2 million in cash and gifts, Cash for Kids did not purchase any gifts at Christmas time from the generous cash donations to their Mission Christmas appeal”.

It goes on to assert that they required gifts to be collected by “pre-approved applicants only” and that “Bauer Media charge thousands of pounds for each Cash for Kids airtime slot.

“They own 22 Cash for Kids Charities throughout the UK and pocket a whopping £375,000 on average for each one. That’s over £8 million nationwide.”

Bauer Media Group states on its website that “Cash for Kids is Bauer Radio’s network of local charities... our mission is to respond to the needs of children in our communities, and we aspire to enable all children to live life to the full and achieve their individual potential”.

It goes on to say under the heading of Major Campaigns that “the Christmas campaign is the jewel in the Cash for Kids crown”. It adds: “In 2017, thanks to the incredible generosity of our listeners, we distributed over £17.5 million in gifts and cash and helped 400,000 children in local communities across the UK”.

Bauer said its vetting process of disadvantaged families was set up to “ensure that their situation is validated by a third party”, adding “three independent audits” of the charity were carried out each year.

A spokeswoman for Cash For Kids said Bauer Media “makes no profit whatsoever from the charity”.

It is clearly evident that this ­campaign has met with a great deal of success and the fact that hundreds of thousands of children have benefited is difficult to deny, so the intervention by Helping Hands in Edinburgh is obviously something the campaign could do without.

Boogie and Arlene’s statement notwithstanding it is clear that Helping Hands are not prepared to let the matter drop. We can only hope that some needy children of the city do not become collateral damage.

Playing politics over coalition just harms city

It was interesting to read the contrasting views expressed in Monday’s paper regarding the City Council coalition.

A letter from the disgruntled Labour back-bencher Councillor Gordon Munro states that: “The evasion of putting any demand on Holyrood to use its extensive powers to change local government finance to make it fit for the 21st century is evading responsibility....” thereby chastising the SNP Group on the council for not publicly making demands of the SNP Scottish Government.

As I have previously stated, a public fallout between the SNP Group and the Scottish Government would delight Cllr Munro and his cohorts and would play right into his hands. In any case, according to Adam McVey, the council leader, representations to the Government have taken place in private which should stand a better chance of influencing thinking than any public posturing would.

However, contrast Cllr Munro’s view with that of that of Cllr Cammy Day, the Labour Group leader, pictured, when he stated in a column in the same paper that “Edinburgh Labour, supported by OUR NATIONAL PARTY [my emphasis] has been delivering like this for our city as coalition partners for the last six-and-a-half-years. Being part of a power-sharing agreement allows us to protect what we believe in.” He also states that “I am not content to sit on the sidelines as the impact of West-minster cuts, Tory austerity and indecision over the European Union makes life worse than it was ten years ago for those trying to make an honest living in our city.”

So two different attitudes to coalition working, one expressed by a backbench opponent of the coalition and the other from his group leader who supports it.

The incessant sniping from those who wish to see the coalition founder, no matter the cost, may suit a minority political agenda but in the event that they were to be successful the cost is likely to be borne by the city.

School building’s fate is sealed

it was interesting to note from yesterday’s paper that Ricky Demarco, described as an “Edinburgh arts guru”, has lent his weight to the campaign to save the former St John’s Primary School at Portobello from demolition just as the contractors have moved on site to start the process.

Alas, I fear that his protestations may be doomed to fail as the city council proceeds with its plan to develop a public park on the site. As a councillor at the time I supported the proposal which came about as a result of the conclusions reached through a fairly extensive consultation exercise which not only involved residents but also school pupils. The prospect of a new park was embraced by the community which welcomed it as an asset to be enjoyed by all ages, which is the main reason why it gained the support of the city council. This decision has been known for several years so Ricky has an uphill battle ahead – after all, deputations can be effective in influencing decisions but the time for this one would appear to have passed.

The fact that he would like to use part of the building to house part of “his exhaustive arts archive” may also raise questions in some quarters as to his belated motivation.