Scottish groups plan legal challenge to cuts

Nearly two dozen small Edinburgh charities are considering legal action after their funding was cut by Edinburgh City Council with only one week's notice.

The 23 organisations have seen more than £30,000 cut from their grants as part of cost-cutting measures. Earlier this year, all had signed agreements with the council guaranteeing their funding levels for one year.

Anne Munro is a senior community worker with community group the Pilmeny Development Project, which receives 65 per cent of its annual income of just more than £125,000 from the council. She said the cuts had exacerbated a below-inflation budget settlement for 2007/08, leaving the charity facing a deficit of £3,000.

She said informal legal advice sought by the affected organisations suggested they could challenge the cuts on a number of grounds, including breach of contract.

She said the 23 had been singled out because they were funded quarterly rather than annually, allowing the council to make immediate cuts rather than wait for the start of the next 12-month cycle. She said the organisations, some of which receive 100 per cent of their funding from the council, were in “survival mode” and were unsure whether they would be able to continue.

“We have been told the cuts are permanent for us and there might be even more in January,” she said. “It feels like death by 1,000 cuts. We are keen to do what we can, but the council is not giving us an even playing field. We have nothing to lose. If we are going to go down, we want to do so in a blaze of glory.”

The groups could band together to mount the case or seek help from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and local council for voluntary service the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council.

However, a spokesman for the SCVO said the umbrella body was not legally permitted to offer financial support for a legal challenge. He said: “We are supportive of these organisations and think they have been treated shoddily, but they are independent organisations and it is a matter for them. We can only give moral and tactical support.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said a council representative would be meeting the director of Evoc next week to discuss the situation. She said: “There are going to be cuts and that is just one of the unfortunate things.”

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