Move would be devastating for vulnerable people - but charities are fighting back
A Scottish local authority is proposing to make scorched earth cuts to the voluntary sector – by slashing ALL funding.
Midlothian Council is considering a devastating 100% removal of large and small grants to charities.
But the sector is fighting back – as the local Midlothian Third Sector Interface (TSI) has launched a #CareDontCut campaign to prevent the cuts.
As well as ending all grants to charities, proposed savings include drastic measures which will have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable in the teeth of the cost of living crisis and soaring food and energy bills.
These include the end of funding grants to community transport and dial-a-ride service by Handicabs Lothian and Lothian Community Transport.
The council is also looking at removing staff from libraries.
It is estimated that if grants are slashed back to zero, more than 7,000 vulnerable people will be directly impacted and there will be job losses in the sector.
Midlothian TSI has published an open letter to councillors insisting they reconsider and it is asking people to lobby councillors, MPs and MSPs.
The letter states: “Many of the proposals in the paper will have a negative impact on the funding of third sector organisations. Our organisations were not well-funded to begin with, and have been badly impacted by the combined effect of Covid, Brexit, inflation and the recent rise in utility prices. Further cuts to their budgets could lead to the closure of key, long-established organisations.
“Much of the work funded through the grants programme is preventative, and its removal will lead to increased costs for the Council and other community planning partners, for example, through a rise in isolation leading to increased calls on GPs and other health services, children being less able to cope at school, or an increase in anti-social behaviour.”
It adds: “Many older and disabled people are unable to get to third sector activities without the support of our community transport providers. If these cuts are made, the lives of our most vulnerable citizens will be hugely restricted.”
The cuts proposals come as Midlothian Council is facing a projected budget gap for 2023/24 of £14.481 million rising to a projected £26.575m by 2027/28.
TFN is currently monitoring the situation at Scotland’s other local authorities to see if other devastating third sector cuts will be proposed.
Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said: "As councils set their budgets, they are facing stark choices. But this proposal from Midlothian is short-sighted and benefits no one.
"Perversely, it will increase costs to the public purse, including to the council itself and is extremely damaging to the people of Midlothian and the voluntary organisations that provide essential support at a time when many households are in crisis. If we see this replicated across the country, it will be devastating and I urge councils to resist such knee-jerk actions."
As we went to press, Midlothian Council was discussing the proposals, and there will be community engagement until 21 February when a final decision will be made.
You can read the open letter here.
A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “Lesley Kelly, representing the Third Sector Interface, presented a deposition outlining its concerns to councillors at today’s special full council meeting. No decisions have been made. The council welcomes all feedback, which will be considered by councillors before the budget setting meeting on Tuesday 21 February.”