Edinburgh's Lord Provost hits out at councillors for community centre funding axe causing 'widespread dismay'
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost has blasted councillors for halting controversial funding plans for a community centre and accused them of causing “widespread dismay” in the west of the Capital.
Last week, plans by the SNP group at Edinburgh City Council were tabled to push forward proposals to commit £750,000 of money from the authority’s unallocated reserves to bridge a funding gap to rebuild Corstorphine Community Centre, which was destroyed by fire in 2013.
But the plans were shelved after opposition councillors on the authority’s finance and resources committee, with support from the SNP finance convener, Cllr Alasdair Rankin , raised concerns the project was being prioritised when the council’s existing stock of community centres needs around £14m of investment – and no funding is available until 2023 at the earliest. Opposition councillors have also raised concerns the SNP group was focusing on the project in an attempt to boost their chances in the Edinburgh West general election campaign, a target seat for the party – but SNP sources rubbished any suggestion.
Now SNP ward Cllr Frank Ross, also the city’s Lord Provost, has criticised the decision – saying it sends a message that locals “don’t matter” and “you’re not important”. Cllr Ross, a supporter of the rebuild project, believes the decision taken on Friday is being seen in the community as “ending any prospect of council funding” for the rebuild.
He said: “This, despite assurances over the last 12 months from
several political groups, the leader and depute leader of the council and previous committee positions, arrived at unanimously, that led us to believe funding would be forthcoming.
“Those volunteers who have committed thousands of hours raising funds, developing designs and business plans will feel absolutely gutted by this decision.”
He added: “Those councillors who opposed supporting the community are happy to benefit from the not insignificant amount of council tax raised from Corstorphine-Murrayfield but were unwilling to reinvest £750,000 back into the rebuild for the benefit of the community.
“The committee decided to leave Corstorphine-Murrayfield as the only ward in the city with no council community facility. There will be widespread dismay in Corstorphine-Murrayfield over this decision and many will wonder what motivated those councillors who blocked progress on this.”
But depute leader of the council, Labour group leader, Cllr Cammy Day, has blasted the Lord Provost’s comments, labelling them “disappointing” – pointing to a cross-party consensus to look at all community centres together, A consultation will be held with the Corstorphine community about a potential hub model with the next-door library – while Cllr Day has committed to meeting with organisers in January.
Cllr Day said: “Whilst I’m an advocate in local people investing in their community and the work of the fundraisers, that has to be taken in the context of the council’s financial position where the SNP Scottish Government have made severe cuts to the council’s funding and we’re looking at another £33m next year. Maybe he should go down the road to Holyrood and speak to Derek Mackay about supporting a community funding bid.
“There just isn’t £750,000 of free money to allocate to this project, given we haven’t even committed any money to the poverty commission, the sustainability commission and hundreds of people are spending the night in temporary B&Bs. These are the priorities of this administration and that will not change.”