Council’s funding plan branded ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’

Money that should have been spent on gala days has instead been put into a two-year funding package for the third sector.

Council’s funding plan branded ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ iStock

Opposition councillors have said that a two-year funding plan for volunteer groups comes at a cost of community gala days.

The plan has been branded “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

West Lothian Council has rolled in £40,000 that would have been spent on gala days and community events into a funding package for this year and next across the third sector.

It has been welcomed across the board – not least by the charity groups who have devoted a good part of their year to preparing bids for annual funding.

But at a meeting of the council executive, the SNP’s Carl John said: “The bit I disagree with is us using gala funds.

“We’ve got seven galas in our ward. Most are still active even though they haven’t been able to do any fundraising.

“They have expenses. They have insurance. In Kirknewton their steel storage container has collapsed and a lot of equipment has been destroyed.

“lt’s a bit unfair taking money away from the committees who are all working away unpaid, hoping for the day next year when we can all enjoy galas again.

“Is there no way we do this without taking money away from gala committees?”

Dougie Grierson, regeneration team leader, told the meeting that the grant was an annual one and, as last year because of Covid restrictions, there had been no requests for funding this year.

“The gala grant will be available next year again,” he added.

An amendment to retain the £40,000 for gala committees was defeated in a vote.

Later, councillor Frank Anderson, depute SNP group leader, said he was disappointed that “Labour and Tory councillors combined to vote against supporting our galas to build up their financial ability to hopefully run galas next year”.

He added: “Like every organisation, gala committees have had their much anticipated events curtailed.

“They have been unable, or very restricted in their ability, to fundraise in support of their gala day funds.

“They have taken a much needed £40,000 from these annual events to fund other groups.

“This was nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul, then claim we have put extra money into the voluntary sector.”

Councillor Anderson said gala committees would have preferred to have cash in their accounts instead of having to “scurry around” fundraising.

By local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville

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