Dras­tic spend­ing cuts on hold as coun­cil­lors call ‘spe­cial meet­ing’

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

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.

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