Groups voice concerns over Midlothian Council cuts to voluntary sector

Members of Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 and Volunteer Midlothian are angry at proposed Midlothian Council cuts to the voluntary sector. Photo: Scott Louden
Members of Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 and Volunteer Midlothian are angry at proposed Midlothian Council cuts to the voluntary sector. Photo: Scott Louden

More groups have highlighted the “devastating” effect Midlothian Council proposed cuts would have to the voluntary sector.

The groups are worried about the impact any funding cut would have on local voluntary organisations and community groups.

The proposed cuts include a £600,000 reduction in the Grants Budget for voluntary and community groups, a £50,000 cut to Midlothian Sure Start’s budget, a 45 per cent increase in the rent for after school clubs, and the end of support for gala days.

Carol Flack, project manager at Mayfield Y2K, is worried about the group’s “integral” annual £50,000 grant. She explained that although this was not a huge percentage of their overall funding, it is key to the group’s survival.

She said: “Our concern is that we are the only youth service running a community-based youth centre in Midlothian. These cuts would threaten that significantly and hamper any progress in maximising that council money.

“Essentially the council funding is very important because it provides a management structure to back-up our ability to fundraise. The fundraising we get in is four or five times what we get from the council. So any threats to us working on project management would mean there isn’t time for fundraising. It’s an integral role.”

Carol is worried about the future for the Y2K project.

She said: “Our fear is that we get a big cut. We were set up 17 years ago to match an identified need, and the need is greater than ever now.

“To cut a service like the Y2K would be devastating.”

Karen Downie, head of service transform at Volunteer Midlothian, also spoke of its “key” council funding.

She said: “If we weren’t to get what we get at the moment then it would have a huge affect on the service we provide, that funding is key to us.

“We are naturally in a position just now where we need money, so to cut it back would be pretty devastating for us. If these cuts come through we won’t be able to employ staff.

“The council has to make these cuts, so if it’s not the voluntary sector it’s elsewhere. I appreciate they are in a difficult position but they need to look at the bigger picture.”

Karen spoke of one of the projects the funding pays for, providing supervised volunteer places to help young people get on in life while giving back to their communities.

“This project can then help them in the future to get a job or go to college or university. Schools are referring young people to us as they don’t know where else to send them, so it’s a knock on effect if we lose this. It’s a vicious circle.

“We have had record numbers coming through our system, it’s been very successful. If we can’t offer this opportunity then what happens to these young people?”

Midlothian Council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) highlighted the “hugely positive impact” of the voluntary sector, and having met a number of local groups and organisations he “fully understands the concerns being raised”.

He added: “I have also been making the case for additional funding with the Scottish Government and have made it clear that unless the drastic cuts in council funding come to an end, the impact on our communities will be devastating.”