About seventy people attended the Edinburgh City Council meeting on Thursday 18th Dec 2008 in protest of the unfair distribution of the ”Fairer Scotland Fund", which would hit Edinburgh's most deprived area hardest, relative to previous regeneration funding.
A banner was dropped and calls were made for Elaine Morris, the incompetent representative for the Forth area and chair of the finance meeting, to resign.
Amongst the groups and initiatives threat
ened with closure are new buildings costing millions - which are now left with no funding to staff and open the resources to the public.
However, 1.8m of the money allocated to Edinburgh under the grant scheme is still unaccounted for. Yet seventeen projects in the North Edinburgh area from Youth Groups to Elderly Project to Anti-racist initiatives and support networks for abused women are now threatened with closure.
The Fairer Scotland Fund, which was originally set up by the Scottish government to tackle poverty, inequality and deprivation, has been used by the Edinburgh City Council's ruling LibDem and SNP coalition to boost the more affluent areas.
A deputation from the Forth ward presented their outrage to the Edinburgh City Council's meeting on Thursday, 18th of December.
Malcolm Chisholm, Member of the Scottish Parliament, opened the deputations with the remark, that the Forth ward sees the worst funding cuts in the 17 years he has been a representative for the area. He said that many of the projects grew out of activism of recognising a need in this area, like North Edinburgh Childcare. He warned that should these funding cuts go through, it would mean that other council services would need to pick up the pieces. He sounded astonished, that Edinburgh Council was the only council in Scotland who did not use the Scottish Index on allocating the funding, but a new “Edinburgh Index” which meant drastic funding cuts of 37% a year.
Dave Pickering, community representative to the Forth Partnership, pointed out that the cuts in the Forth area amounted to £700 000 (seven hundred thousand pounds) and that seventeen projects are affected. He pointed out that the Local Neighbourhood Partnership gave reassurance at the start but that the promises of fair funding allocation never happened. He pointed out that the funding cuts are hitting the most vulnerable people in the community and that the Fairer Scotland Fund is penalising the poorest communities with the most deprivation in Edinburgh.
A user and representative of the Black Community Development Project talked about how the cuts are unfairly targetting the local ethnic minority people with a community of two thousand five hundred residents. She asked: “Who will continue to address our needs?” and talked about how the BCDP was helping her and her family when they became vistims of racist abuse. She also called for the Fairer Scotland Fund to be more transparently and more equally distributed.
Nina Davies, a reader of the North Edinburgh News, stressed that as a self-employed professional the NEN is a vital link to the community. The funding cuts would close-down a community paper with a 30-year-old history.
Georg Pitcher from the Edinburgh Community Activist Representatives Network stressed that the Councillors would have a moral choice today. He reminded the Councillors that people placed their trust in them and that they should make a decision for the People and not their Party. He called for the Councillors to get a better understanding of the people who they serve.
A representative of the Pilton Youth Community Group stated that her organisation was the only organisation which provides an early intervention for under 12-year-old and that the speed of the drastic funding cuts being implemented meant that it was impossible to get additional funding as there was not enough time given to their project.
The Member of the Westminster Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, called for options to make it possible for the projects to continue. He warned about the interconnections which were not yet considered by the funding cuts; like the cutbacks to funding youth projects will result in that teenagers and young people will have nothing to do and that will have consequences.
Peter Ecroy talked about the funding cuts to the Muirhouse Millenium Community Centre, which was opened in August 2000 with £800 000 in funding would have to close under cutbacks allocated via the Fairer Scotland Fund. He stressed that the criteria set up by the Edinburgh Partnership were all covered by the Centre and still a funding cut of 54% happened, making 7 local workers redundant and leaving the building empty. Over 30 different groups use the centre every week, he said, many of the centre’s users are the most vulnerable people such as older people, young single parents, children and unemployed. He reminded the Councillors, that the other community centre in Craigroyston is set to close with its relocation to Pennywell and asked:
“Where do the people who need these facilities go now?”
Roy Douglas, chair of the Muirhouse and Salvesen Community Council stated that the these cuts will effect the most vulnerable. He stressed that Muirhouse and Niddrie were found in a recent research by Glasgow University to be the most deprived communities in the city - with Niddrie receiving no reduction whatsoever in its funding allocation whilst Muirhouse suffered a reduction of more than 50% in the grant money which was aimed originally at tackling poverty and social exclusion. He stated that our community would look pretty much like 25 years ago - with empty boarded-up houses and broken street lighting, parks and green spaces neglected. He asked the Councillors to work with us and not against us, and reminded the SNP that Nicola Sturgeon declared her support for community led regeneration and called for Councillors not to endorse the axe blow.
The deputations finished off with Councillors given a 15 minutes period to ask questions. Councillors Lesley Hinds and Cammy Day supported the deputations and called on the Edinburgh Council to avoid the cuts. A banner was dropped and calls from the public gallery demanded that Elaine Morris resign as a Councillor for the Forth ward and as the chair of the Forth Partnership and as the convenor of the FSF Finance Group which implemented the cuts.