Proposals put forward to councillors would see grants cut by 13%
North Lanarkshire Council is facing questions about the funding of dozens of third sector organisations after officials unveiled planned cuts to grants across the area.
Papers published ahead of a meeting of the council’s Communities Committee on the morning of Monday, 6 February, outline proposed funding that will be awarded to a voluntary groups and charities in the area.
Councillors will be asked to consider and approve the funding recommendations for the 2023-2024 grant awards programme from North Lanarkshire Council.
The report assumes that “a similar level of budget will be available for Grant Awards for 2023/24” compared to the previous year, and asks the committee to approve allocations “pending budget decisions”.
The applications considered were scored on a scale which determined the outcome of their application, with the reasoning behind the decisions not shared in the same paper.
A total of 95 organisations applied for grant funding, with requests coming to over £2.5million - significantly higher than the anticipated budget of around £575,000, plus the £191,000 block grant provided to Third Sector Interface Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL).
Analysis by TFN has found that overall, the area’s third sector faces an 8% real-terms cut to their funding from North Lanarkshire Council in 2023/24, compared to the previous year.
When the block grant to VANL is taken out of this calculation, this drops to an absolute cut of 5%, and a real-terms cut of 13%.
A number of organisations, including PHEW Scotland and the Ethnic Minorities Law Centre, who received funding in 2022/23 saw their applications rejected for the coming year.
Of the 41 organisations who applied for funding for the first time, less than half received any funding, with the majority receiving just 10% of their requested amounts.
Concerns have now been raised about the decision-making process and the situation that a number of charities are now being left in.
A North Lanarkshire councillor who spoke to TFN said: “It’s always sad to see the voluntary and community sector putting hard work into grant applications and competing for the insufficient funding available.
“We really do need to look at thematic, geographic and demographic equity.
“In terms of community grants and community empowerment it would be nice to see more detail of the scoring criteria and the rationale for the awards, and ideally have these decisions taken at community board level informed by the recipients of services who are much more knowledgeable about what services are actually being delivered locally and are valuable, rather than this top down approach.
I also cannot understand at all the scoring rational with regard to first time applicants, particularly if this is with regard to established organisations who have been already undertaking work under other funding initiatives.
“I am particularly concerned that the decision to not award funding for continued conservation work via The Conservation Volunteers who were successful in their application to Glasgow Community Grant scheme will mean that The North Lanarkshire half of the Seven Lochs will see much less community voluntary action and therefore improvement than the Glasgow side.”
Councillor Kenneth Stevenson, convener of North Lanarkshire Council’s Communities Committee, said: “Like all councils, we are facing severe cuts to our budget and we expect to have to save £67 million over the next three years. Undoubtedly this will have an impact on the vital services we provide. The overall grant award allocation for 2023/24 is proposed at the same level of funding as the previous year, pending the setting of the council’s budget later this month.
“The value of funding requests we receive is nearly four times greater than the anticipated budget available. We do have robust assessment processes in place to ensure that the distribution of funding is fair and equitable as possible.
"The third sector plays a hugely important part in supporting people across North but the limited budget available means we are not able to fund all organisations or the level requested.
“We have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to provide local authorities with a fair funding settlement which recognises the importance of local services.”
VANL was approached for comment.
Charities face a fraught time as councils across Scotland look to make savings while setting their budgets. TFN has revealed that Midlothian Council is looking at a 100% cut to grant funding - read more here - and that Edinburgh's voluntary sector faces major cuts.