Third sector youth groups in the Highlands are facing a whopping 80 per cent cut in their local authority funding, if planned changes are approved by Highland Council tomorrow (Wednesday 26 October).
The meeting of the Education and Adult Services Committee in Inverness will discuss proposals for its future revenue budget – including the agreement of funding allocations for third sector, culture and leisure services.
According to a paper to be discussed at the meeting, funding to groups like Youth Highland, the Boys Brigade and the Scouts would drop from £79,834 in 2016/17 to £13,435 in 2018/19 – a drastic cut of 83 per cent.
Similarly, the allocation for village halls would be reduced from £152,000 to £50,000 – a reduction of more than two-thirds.
Kate Forbes MSP is urging the council to consider if alternative measures can be taken.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said: “I fully realise that the Highland Council has to cut its cloth somewhere, and I fully appreciate Highland Council's independence to make those decisions, but imposing such drastic cuts will jeopardise lifeline youth groups in remote rural areas.
“Many of the groups such as Youth Highland are supporting volunteers by ways of training, developing models of best practice as well as facilitating PVG checks.
“I value the work that the third sector does across the Highlands, and I hope that alternative measures can be brought forward.”
Kate Forbes MSP added: “One of the things I love to see across the Highlands is community empowerment.
“Many of these youth organisations will be giving young people new skills and experiences, as well as valued activities where precious little happens.
“Some of them are led by young people, in order to give them a voice and develop leadership.
“Let us also not forget that the budget allocated to village halls is facing similar cuts.
“I believe our village halls are important facilities, and are often a gathering point for all sorts of community groups and activities.
“As someone who regularly uses halls for surgeries, these proposals in their present form are concerning.
“I think it would be helpful to continue the conversation a bit longer and see what can be done – I wonder how many people across the Highlands are aware of the impact that this decision will have.”