Funding slashed to former coalfield communities

journal and gazette web graphic
journal and gazette web graphic

A £1 million budget cut to a charity which helps former mining communities like Bo’ness will have a “devastating 
effect” it has been claimed.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT) has called on the Scottish Government to restore its grant making programme, deemed a particularly vital tool in its job creation efforts.

It has spoken out after final budget negotiations - which saw its funds for 2012-13 slashed by two-thirds from £1.57 million to £510,000 - were concluded.

The grants cut does not affect the £25,000 windfall for small-scale Bo’ness/Blackness improvement projects, announced in September as one of five locations in the separate Coalfields Community Futures Programme 2012/13.

But £159,000 of grants were dispersed to Falkirk coalfield communities in 2008-12.

Over £27,000 was used from a 2011 award to a £96,350 Falkirk Council Kinneil Estate employment and training project.

Nine local people were recruited and landscaping skills gained, while work included clearing drainage ditches, strimming paths and removing storm-damaged trees.

Seven went on to modern apprenticeships, one for a construction company trial and another to the council’s estates management team.

Past awards have included £55,000 to the Forth Valley Sensory Project for transport, £500 for Kinneil Band’s 150th anniversary project and £435 for Whitecross Power Station youth club equipment.

The CRT claimed Scotland’s former mining communities were faring much worse than counterparts in England (12.5 per cent drop) and Wales (static budget) - who both continue to give grants - while the need here was as great.

CRT Scottish trustee and vice-chairman Nicky Wilson said the withdrawn £1 million could have created 50 Scottish jobs, helped another 160 people into work, started 10 social enterprises, as well as other benefits.

He said: “We are grateful for the £500,000 we did receive from the Scottish Government and we are using it to deliver three key programmes, providing funding development support, identifying and supporting new social entrepreneurs, and assisting specific communities to choose and implement their priorities for a better future.

“Withdrawing funding for grants will have a devastating effect on former mining communities, which still lag behind the rest of the country, particularly with the recession, in job creation and employment opportunities, health and transport links.”

Fellow trustee Tom McAughtrie said most coalfields organisations they supported did not meet criteria for the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund, which they were being told to apply to.

The Scottish Government insisted it was committed to supporting coalfields communities, he said, but causing the total closure of a grants programme cut a vital lifeline to Scotland’s mining areas.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to the regeneration of our former coalfield communities.

“A range of support is in place to support local organisations in former coalfield communities, including through the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund and the BIG Lottery.

“The Scottish Government has also provided funding of more than £500,000 to the CRT for 2012/13 with more than £400,000 agreed for 2013/14.

“Whilst we offer a range of support for deprived communities through the regeneration strategy, support is also available through local authorities and community planning partnerships who have responsibility for regeneration in their areas.”