Race equality body accuses council of ‘dishonesty’

Foysol Choudhury. Picture: Greg Macvean
Foysol Choudhury. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A LEADING race relations and anti-discrimination charity has accused the city council of dishonesty over moves to slash its annual grant.

Directors of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (Elrec) claimed city leaders had deliberately scored their organisation badly in a recent audit because they want to strip it of £60,000 in annual funding.

The Evening News has learnt that a complaint, running to nearly 50 pages, has been submitted over the way senior council officials assessed Elrec’s activities.

Elrec directors said a council test of whether their organisation was delivering in key performance areas had been designed and carried out “selectively” to ensure a poor result.

And they claimed council leaders wanted to engineer low ratings so they could justify raiding Elrec’s core grant and transferring £40,000 to a new Equality and Rights Network (Earn).

Founded in 1971, Elrec’s membership includes representatives from organisations such as the city council and police who provide advice and assistance aimed at stamping out discrimination.

Reporting of hate crimes, school campaigns against racist bullying and specialist volunteer training are among the services provided or supported by the charity.

Directors said the council’s grant was crucial to their ability to cover the cost of hiring a manager and administrator, and paying the rent on its Forth Street headquarters.

And they warned their work had been put in jeopardy by the council’s “deliberately flawed and prejudicial” assessment process.

In an e-mail to senior managers at the city council, Foysol Choudhury, Elrec chairman, said: “What Elrec wants is a fair and equal assessment, not one designed selectively to get the ‘poor result’ which had to ‘stand’ as evidence that Elrec has not delivered and thus its grant should be ‘withdrawn’.”

Elrec’s total annual funding is currently around £200,000 but its leaders stressed the bulk of this was made up of one-off and project-specific grants.

And they said their ability to win this cash depended on being able to cover day-to-day administration and running 
costs, which are mainly funded thanks to the council’s £60,000 annual grant.

Allegations of dishonesty come as the council moves to slice nearly £11 million from the council’s £108m voluntary and third sector budget over the next five years.

Council leaders declined to comment directly on the claims but said all organisations, including Elrec, would be welcomed into Earn.

A spokeswoman said: “The Capital coalition is committed to promoting equality and tackling discrimination, which is why we have set up the new Equality and Rights Network.

“We will shortly be seeking applications from organisations to support this new network and would encourage any interested group – including Elrec – to apply.”