Council cutbacks having painful impact

Vulnerable children and adults with learning difficulties are among the victims of drastic cuts made by reorganist local councils. Stephen Naysmith assesses the casualties.

As councils across Scotland battle with the costs of local government reorganisation. voluntary organisations are struggling to avoid slipping into crisis. Many are dependent on local councils for funding. but find they are bottom of the pile as the

authorities slash budgets.

Since the changeover on f April. redundancies and

cut-backs have been widespread:

I Who ('ares‘.’ Scotland. a group providing information and support for children in local authority care. has been forced to lay off two-thirds

of its development workers.

I The lipilepsy Association of Scotland (EAS) has sacked the equivalent ofeleven full-time workers and could he forced to close its Glasgow day centre.

I Lothian‘s Brook Advisory Service has suffered a strbstantial cut and will have to limit counselling work on contraception and sexual health with young


An estimated 5()()() groups across Scotland are locked into a carousel of meetings and phone calls to

see how they will be affected.

Who Cares'.’ will not be able to offer long term work with young people. according to depute principle officer Lil. Barrett. ‘We are now only able to do minimal pieces of work.‘ she said. ‘lf there was a real

crisis we would be stretched.‘

Local government reorganisation has forced Who Cares“? to renegotiate deals with a multitude of new councils to support its work. lts role as a watchdog of

paying for failure in the past to serve outlying areas of larger regions such as Lothian and Strathclyde. West Lothian Council defended their decisions: ‘Where there is a legally binding commitment on us to fund an organisation we are doing so.‘ says'l‘ony Kinder. chair of the strategic services committee. but added: ‘Where there is no legal obligation we are funding only voluntary organisations which do something for the people of West Lothian. lf organisations can prove that they do then we will listen to them.‘

Martin Sirne. director of the Scottish (‘ourrcil for

On a tight budget: Epilepsy sufferers are among those losing out

Scotland has to make multiple applications to councils which made up the former regions. In Glasgow and surrounding areas. this has forced a stringent belt-tightening exercise. IRAS director Hilary Mounfield has had to axe ten full-time staff and make another two part—time because the new councils are failing to match the cash granted by Strathclyde Region before I April.

None have offered funding for more than six months. ‘lt is worrying that there is no commitment beyond that.‘ says Mounfield. ‘Without more

council children's homes is also precarious. ‘We can be a bit of a thorn in the side ofthe councils.‘ says Barrett. ‘but we are there to remind them about the importance of their commitment to young people.‘ Despite the Scottish ()ffice advising councils to safeguard voluntary organisations‘ funding. in practice many have used reorganisation as a way to

impose backdoor cuts.

West Lothian Council. for instance. has offered the

Brook Advisory Service and Who Cares?

significantly less than what they received from the former Lothian Region. and then only for six months. It could he that some voluntary organisations are

Voluntary Organisations. believes councils may have a legal obligation to maintain levels of funding. ‘We may still end up in court.‘ he says. "The new councils are looking for escape clauses. Buckpassing between one council and another simply has to stop.‘

Sirne estimates that as many as l()()()jobs could be lost in voluntary agencies. which he sees as ironic given the lengths councils have gone to avoid compulsory redundancies among their ovv n workforces. ‘The effect is going to be very serious.‘ he say s. ‘\'oluntcers will lose heart. staff will move elsewhere and communin members will simply walk away.‘

Like Who ('ares‘.’ the Epilepsy Association of

security the centre could shut. and training and activities for epileptics and people with learning difficulties will be lost. Some have been using the centre for ten years now. Not everybody has a warm. caring family and life is bleak for many of them.‘

The Scottish ()ffice maintains it can only offer guidance to councils‘on funding decisions. ‘Measures were taken to ensure that the new authorities recognise the work and funding needed to maintain the voluntary sectors input.‘ said a spokesman. ‘llowevcr. the decision whether or not to fund many of these voluntary organisations is for the local authorities. not the Scottish ()ffice.‘

And finally . . . knives out at GOMA as Forsyth goes to movies

If all publicin is good publicity. then Glasgow galleries chief Julian Spalding must be a public relations genius. The row over the Gallery Of Modern Art. or GOMA as it quickly became known. rumbled on after Glasgow boy Ken Currie described it as a ‘high-brow amusement arcade'.

The main target of Currie‘s wrath seems to be the way his painting The Bur/rem. acquired by the city at a cost of £36.()()(). was hung in the new gallery. He stated: ‘lt looked like an art school degree show from Arbroath —— no offense to Arbroath.‘ None taken. we‘re sure; the town best known as home of the srnokie was no doubt flattered at the suggestion that it also boasts an art school.

Relying on the age-old defence that the market will have the last word. Spalding responded to his critics by

As~s§i 3's" V "

Loch Ness: Reeling In the Scottfsh Secretary pointing to GOMA's visitor numbers in the opening week which exceeded targets. The public. it seems. are voting with their feet - though whether their hearts and minds have gone along too remains open to question.

‘I thought Ken's art was about trying

to communicate to a large public.‘

jihed Spalding. ‘.\'ow it seems he only

wants it seen by a few middle-class intellectuals.‘ (‘urrie—Spalding looks like a heavyweight art battle which will go more rounds than the recent Ty son-Bruno fight; perhaps Rupert Murdoch should buy up exclusive rights.

Also playing to the gallery is Scottish secretary Michael l‘orsyth who recently unveiled the long-awaited recommendations of a consultants' report on the Scottish film industry. The reasoning behind an unexplained last-minute change of plan emerged when liorsyth jetted off to the American premiere of Inc/1 :‘v’t’ss. which hasn‘t exactly done monster box office in the UK.

With an eye on a few column inches in Hollywood industry bible litricly. liorsyth was expected to announce the findings ofthe report in New York.

According to a Scottish ()ffice source quoted in the Sunday 'li'mcs, l-‘orsyth ‘likes films and likes the company of filmmakers‘.

Presumably his new—found enthusiasm for cinema will result in a long list of thank-yous to everyone without whom the consultant‘s report would never have been completed . . .

And finally. official confirmation of what Glaswegian's have always known; Edinburgh folk are ‘aff their heids'. According to Dr David Weeks. a neurologist based at the Royal Edinburin Hospital who has made a study of eccentricity. the city has tnore than its share of people who could be termed ‘a few scones short of a high tea'. ()ne titan on the loose in the city. highlighted in Weeks‘ study. is an avid potato-spotter who spends his holidays abroad looking for unusual varieties of spud. And please. no jokes about chips on shoulders. (Eddie Gibb)

The List 19 Apr-2 May 1996 5