Drastic spending cuts on hold as councillors call ‘special meeting’
DRASTIC funding cuts to third sector organisations have been blocked pending a special meeting of the Highland Council.
Members of the council’s Education, Children and Adult Services committee (ECAS) voted 11 to eight at a meeting last Wednesday (October 26), to approve cuts which would see total council funding for third sector groups slashed by 45 per cent during the 2017/18 financial year.
But councillors effectively blocked the cuts after tabling a motion last Thursday which stat- ed that ‘a special meeting of the Education, Children and Adult Services Committee should be held as soon as possible to determine funding for third sector culture and leisure services and that comprehensive paperwork is made available to complete the process with appropriate evaluation criteria’.
The special meeting is likely to be held next Thursday (November 10).
The council previously agreed a five per cent reduction in funding for third sector culture and leisure services at a meeting in December 2014, to be implemented in the 2016/17 financial year.
It was then recommended the council make further cuts of 45 per cent over the next two years.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: ‘I am delighted the SNP and others have submitted a motion to block the cuts proposed by the Education, Children and Adult Services Committee until they are considered in more detail at a special meeting.
‘The scale of the reductions, with some of them at 80 per cent of the budget, is massive.’
Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson told The Oban
Times: ‘These cuts to third sector groups have rightly been postponed until councillors have a clearer view of the methodology that has been applied to them. I’d be delighted if every third sector group could get full funding – that’s almost certainly not going to happen.
‘However, to try to limit the impact, our independent administration is proposing to put back into the budget a very significant sum of money to support these groups. This extra money will support employment and sustain important community assets, such as the Nevis Centre, which employs over 20 people and is the West Highland’s main concert and festival venue.’
As reported in The Oban Times last week, the Nevis Centre was set to see its funding cut by £ 30,000.
The council had also agreed that funding to groups such as Youth Highland, the Boys Brigade and the Scouts would drop from £79,834 in 2016/17 to £13,435 in 2018/19 – a drastic cut of 83 per cent.
Similarly, the allocation for village halls was reduced from £152,000 to £ 50,000 – a reduction of more than two-thirds.
Ms Forbes added: ‘It is important all avenues and alternatives are explored so that organisations and village halls in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch don’t face such brutal cuts.’
The Highland Council said that the cuts were ‘planned such a way to give all the organisations as much notice as possible over three years to prepare for the reductions and plan accordingly’.
Councillor Drew Millar, chairman of ECAS said: ‘ The council has tried to give groups the maximum amount of time possible to prepare for the future. Unfortunately there will now continue to be a degree of uncertainty until we know the outcome of this motion of amendment.’
Other Lochaber community groups facing funding cuts include Lochaber Music School and Room 13.