Committee row over grant funding cuts

Councillor Tom Johnston wants Contingency Fund used to cover shortfall
Councillor Tom Johnston wants Contingency Fund used to cover shortfall

A row broke out at North Lanarkshire’s Council Education Committee last week over cuts to grants for up to 66 organisations.

Councillors were presented with two options, one drawn up by officials before the budget meeting of February 23 recommending £953,088 of grants, while the second offered just £847,040.

SNP Group Education spokesman Tom Johnston moved for ‘Option 1’,the ‘standstill’ position, which would have left the 2017-18 grants totals equal to the 2016-17 financial year hand-outs.

Labour moved for ‘Option 2’, which incorporated £120,000 worth of savings in the overall grant budget from the budget passed last month.

Councillor Johnston said: “We have seen how this council took very sudden, drastic action over Citizens’ Advice Bureau grant support and in dropping all support for the ASN One Stop Shop.

“These organisations were simply left to cope as best they could. The SNP group objects to similar,sudden, drastic cuts to these local organisations.

“They are expected to suddenly absorb £120,000 in grants cuts. This is not even an even, across the board, cut — some have to absorb cuts of 20 per cent. This is unacceptable.”

Committee convener Frank McNally stated that as the council budget had already been passed ‘Option 2’ was now the sole option on the table.

Councillor Johnston responded: “This council can regularly find money at short notice, when required.

“The shortfall can be found in the council’s Contingency Fund, which is set up for emergencies.”

Mossend and Holytown councillor David Baird protested that the agenda papers official ‘recommendation’ quite clearly gave the committee two options from which to chose.

Advice from officials was that the committee would have to agree to suspend Standing Orders to allow ‘Option 1’ to be considered.

Councillor Johnston moved suspension, but was defeated by 15 votes to 9.

Among those losing 20 per cent of their funding are Craigneuk Lifelong Learning Association, Glencassels Community Development Project and The Firpark Alma Club.

Lanarkshire Deaf Club, The Health and Wellness Hub, Banton and Kelvinhead Community Centre Association, Kilsyth Old People’s Welfare Committee and Cumbernauld YMCA-YWCA all lose 15 per cent, the latter equating to over £6000.

Taking the biggest financial hit is The Focus Youth Project in Viewpark which loses over £8000, while Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre loses over £3300.