Charity hits out at decision to put Falkirk Community Trust under council control

Community Leisure UK has said it is "surprised and disappointed" by Falkirk Council's decision to bring Falkirk Community Trust back under full council control.

The body, which represents 26 similar charities in Scotland, says the change will mean "the loss of an incredible charity that has excelled since its inception almost 10 years ago".

Its comments add to criticism of the decision taken by councillors in January, saying the costs of bringing the Trust back in-house far outweigh any benefits.

The loss of non-domestic rates relief will be £1.1 million a year - on top of the legal costs of winding up the charity and transferring staff back to the council.

Falkirk Council Municipal Buildings

The SNP and Conservative councillors who took the decision say the change will mean the return of public services to direct democratic accountability.

But CLUK said: "The charity has engaged regularly with the Council ensuring its priorities are central to service planning, and has councillors who sit on the board of the charity, along with individuals from the local community, ensuring direct engagement with council and democratic accountability."

The leader of Falkirk Council, Cecil Meiklejohn, has also previously said that that different savings could be made, such as no longer having a separate board.

However, in a letter to The Falkirk Herald, former board chairman Ian Scott said: "We were angered by the suggestion that removing the Board would save money.

"For almost ten years the independent members have received no fees or expenses, but instead have given over their time freely to help improve the provision of sport, arts and culture for our community."

Mr Scott, along with former board members Bob Tait, Alex McQuade says that the decision is "nothing short of a scandal."

Community Leisure UK is also concerned that the business case is not solid enough.

They said: "The risk of politically motivated decisions being made with no evidence to support them, is that public services will be impacted, potentially to the detriment of local communities, with higher delivery costs and a loss of a board with expertise from the local area."

However, Conservative councillor Lynn Munro said she stands by her opinion that the Trust was not accountable enough, and said it was often difficult to get information from it.

She pointed to incidences such as the Trust applying for planning permission to extend its Stenhousemuir gym without any consultation with Strathcarron Hospice, which used the space for its furniture store.

She also highlighted a recent audit report into best value that showed Falkirk Council was spending one-third of what other local authorities do on culture.

"While there is a cost to the Trust coming in-house, it wasn't terribly efficient," she said.

"That report shows that they are not getting best value for money."

However, Mr Scott said: "All the real evidence shows that Falkirk's cultural profile and achievements are a match for any part of the country if we compare like with like.

"Some councils have supported their Trusts with huge amounts of cash whereas Falkirk has reduced the Trust's funding every year."

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