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14 December 2016

Transparency and fairness needed

It’s a given that local councils will never be satisfied with the funding allocated from national government but this time there’s a sense of real despair about the prospect of another £700m being lopped off local budgets.  It also goes without saying that when there are hard budget choices to be made, our sector often becomes the low hanging fruit. What’s crucial in all this is that decisions need to be made in an open and transparent fashion so that the rationale for decisions is clear.  This is an example from South Lanarkshire of how not to do it.

By Healthy'n'Happy Development Trust

Yet again our poorest communities are being let down


This proposal from South Lanarkshire Council is undoubtedly wrong on every level. It will result in loss of vital local services to our most vulnerable citizens, to our most deprived communities and will lead to a significant loss of employment and life changing volunteering opportunities for local residents.


The rationale for these proposed cuts to our most deprived communities is fundamentally flawed.


•          It is based on wrong and misleading information.


•          It incorrectly suggests that there will be no impact.


•          It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how critical Tackling Poverty funding has been in attracting extra monies into local communities.


•          It shows a complete disregard for a long standing partner organisation.


•          It apparently takes no account of the likely increased costs and burden for social services and the NHS.


Our work helps to save and improve lives. It strives to make our towns and neighbourhoods better places to live and this work is imminently at risk.  We are extremely concerned about what effect these proposals will have on our most vulnerable residents and on our communities, families, neighbours and friends. 


These proposals are risking up to £1.6 million being brought directly into Cambuslang and Rutherglen over the next 2 years.


We will work tirelessly for however long it takes and exhaust all avenues to bring to everyone’s attention just how much damage this could cause to local communities and residents.


The proposals inform Councillors “that these organisations have access to a range of other funding sources and also have healthy balance sheets with a level of reserves that will allow continuation of the service…. representing a 12.1% decrease to their budgeted income” 


This claim of a proposed 12% cut is misleading. It is in fact a cut of 100% Tackling Poverty funding to Healthy n Happy and all of this when we have the shameful situation of poverty rising and poverty bringing families, adults and even children to crisis point every day. It is also misleading to claim that we have any continuation funding. We do not. Over the past few years South Lanarkshire Council have withdrawn £50,000 (100%) of core funding to Healthy n Happy. We took those cuts to our core funding with a dignified and professional silence. We cannot in these circumstances accept the consequences and impact of these recommendations in silence. This is the most serious funding threat we have ever experienced, in a time where supporting our communities is more crucial than ever. Local agencies need to make savings that don’t make poverty worse and invest Scottish Government funding where it matters most, at the heart of our communities.


Healthy n Happy does not have funds in reserve to enable continuation of services funded by Tackling Poverty. We cannot stress with more clarity that these services will stop if this funding is withdrawn. Tackling Poverty funding, awarded to Councils by Scottish Government, is critical and it allows us to attract other funding directly into Cambuslang and Rutherglen and to support our work. Without this range of funding the work of Healthy n Happy will be completely undermined.


It is alarming to us, as a provider of vital local services, that South Lanarkshire Council are making financial decisions that impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in our community. The proposed cuts in Healthy n Happy funding is based purely on a flawed assumption and a reserve figure that has not been investigated properly. An assumption the council never consulted us on in advance of their recommendation to withdraw 100% of funding support.


We have faced many funding challenges through the years but this is the most serious threat we have ever experienced by a long way.  Did the authors of these proposals stop to think how much pain could be caused to local residents? This is people’s lives we are talking about, the lives of their families, friends and neighbours. Yet again our poorest communities are being let down.


South Lanarkshire Council has been advising and supporting us for years to be business-like and we have followed this advice to the point where just this year we were the only Scottish charity shortlisted and we won a UK wide award for excellent governance.


Their comments on our current financial position now completely contradict their own advice and suggest that we should dump our business-like approach and use our reserves to replace Scottish Government funding. This is effectively asking trustees of this charity to run down our reserves even further and threaten closure of the charity. It is by default also asking the charity Trustees to effectively breach charity regulations. This is deplorable.


We know from our work that all 12 Councillors in Cambuslang and Rutherglen along with our MP and MSP work exceptionally hard to make our society better and our two towns better places to live. However, local Councillors have been advised by officers who have got this proposal badly wrong. The rationale for these proposed cuts to our poorest communities is fundamentally flawed and misleading. We trust that our Elected Members will make the right decision once they have the full information they need.


For further information about this press release please contact:


 


Brendan Rooney, Executive Director, Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust on 0141 646 0123 or brendan@healthynhappy.org.uk

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