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July 27, 2011

Community Councils body to close

A funding crisis has hit the umbrella body of Scotland’s 1200 community councils. The Association of Scottish Community Councils claims it has been hit by 40% cut in funding and as a result has no option but to cease trading as of 30th April next year.  The rationale for ASCC’s decision, which will leave community councils without a national voice, is set out on its website.  The Minister responsible for this decision, John Swinney, clarifies the Scottish Government’s position in a letter to MSPs


Letter from John Swinney to all MSPs

Association of Scottish Community Councils

You will have received yesterday’s announcement by the Association of Scottish Community Councils (ASCC) that it intends to cease its work, with final effect by April 2012. The ASCC communication suggests that its decision has been forced as a direct consequence of cuts to its Scottish Government funding.

All MSPs will deal regularly with Community Councils and Community Councillors in their constituencies and I appreciate that both they and you will have questions about the implications of the ASCC decision. For accuracy I should point out that although there is no obligation for Scottish Government to fund the ASCC, it has received around £180,000 in funding from us since 2007/08. For 2011/12, it has been offered £40,000. In 2010/11 it was offered £30,000; plus a maximum of £20,000 match funds for income it secured itself.

This year’s funding is offered chiefly to deliver training and development to Community Councils in support of their role as vibrant and active voices for local citizens and communities. I should also say that the offer of £40,000 was increased by £10,000 from an earlier offer made in March, in the light of new information provided by the ASCC about the financial challenges it believed it would face this year.

I recognise the challenges faced by small voluntary sector organisations like the ASCC, which playa fundamental role in community engagement and participation across Scotland.

In the last few months we have consistently offered to work with the ASCC to help it strengthen its financial viability, focus on the key strengths it can offer Community Councils, and improve its overall efficiency and effectiveness. That offer remains, although of course I respect the decision the ASCC Board has taken.

The current economic climate, where Scotland faces unprecedented cuts to its overall budget, makes funding decisions like this one even tougher. In this highly challenging environment, the ASCC’s funding bid for 2011/12 was handled no differently from other pressing calls on public funds. Its original bid requested £98,000, almost double the amount it received last year.

This case highlights once more the pressing need to secure greater value for money, reduce duplication and think creatively about how we can pool the collective strengths of the public, third and other sectors. The findings of the Christie Commission, published last week and welcomed by this Government, only underline these points more strongly. But in this challenging context, I am also committed to growing and strengthening the role of Community Councils.