Plea to reverse decision to axe Falkirk Community Trust

A decision to scrap Falkirk Community Trust at a cost of £1 million a year should be reversed quickly before it’s too late, three former directors of the Trust have said.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 2:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 2:45 pm

The council made the decision to wind up the Trust and bring sport, leisure and cultural services back in-house from April this year – a decision that was strongly criticised at the time by the former directors.

Having the Trust run the services as an arms-length organisation means it can claim rates relief worth £1 million every year and the critics say there is no justification for losing this.

Ian Scott – well known as a local historian and the Trust’s first chairman – renewed the call to reverse the decision after the publication of a report by the Accounts Commission, which criticised Falkirk councillors for not working together and failing to take tough decisions.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Ian Scott renewed the call to reverse the decision

The council needs to make savings of £70 million over the next five years and the report says the additional costs of moving the Trust back in-house “pose a significant risk to value for money unless the council takes difficult decisions quickly”.

In an open letter, Mr Scott said: “Like most folk, we were shocked but not surprised to see Falkirk splashed over the Scottish media as a bad example of how to run a community.

“Elected representatives of all parties have faced such criticism in the past but surely now must take action to put things in order before the authorities come in and do it for them.

“It is essential that they work together in the interest of all the people, put aside their political differences and end the point scoring that has led us to this unhappy state.”

The former directors say the SNP and Conservative councillors’ decision to scrap the Trust will have a massively damaging effect on services, which include all of the district’s libraries and leisure centres as well as Callendar House and the Helix.”

Mr Scott added: “We would appeal to the leaders of the three main parties to take this step immediately before the end of March.

“If they wait any longer the Trust will officially end, and according to the rules, cannot be restored in the future.

“With the elections in May on the horizon the present representatives need to demonstrate to the people that they grasp the severity of the situation and act quickly to restore credibility.”

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said: “At a time when the council is facing up to £27 million of cuts for 2022/23 the decision by the SNP and Conservatives to throw away a much needed £1 million every year going forward – and also the possibility of applying for grants and let’s not forget all the legal costs incurred – was the wrong decision.

“We would welcome any discussion on the decision and we will get around the table with the Conservatives and the SNP whenever we are asked to do so..”

Conservative group leader James Kerr said: “I understand how passionate, the three ex directors of the trust are.

“However, discussing this issue previously, my group were happy for the trust in come back in house, giving the opportunity for more synergies, over a whole range of departments.”

The SNP group has been approached for comment.