STAFF at an under-threat community hub have challenged the First Minister to visit and meet the service users they say are set to be pushed into poverty by looming council-cuts.

The plea from the lifeline organisation comes as North Lanarkshire Council slashes its grants programme, meaning the amount of funding a third-sector organisation can apply for has fallen from £50,000 to £10,000.

William McBride, who set up the Kirkshaws Neighbourhood Centre 30 years ago, says changes to the process will leave around 12 members of staff at risk of redundancy and the centre facing permanent closure.

The charity provides a community fridge, low-cost childcare, school uniforms, heating hubs, cookery lessons and IT courses, as well as debt advice to those struggling on the breadline in Coatbridge.

Project director William says that demand for the centre’s services has never been higher as people juggle rising bills and a cost-of-living crisis.

Glasgow Times: William McBrideWilliam McBride (Image: Gordon Terris)

The 63-year-old told the Glasgow Times: “These cuts are going to have a huge impact on the work we do. We will lose a massive chunk of our core funding and simply won’t be able to keep going, we only have reserves to survive for around nine to 12 months.

“It means we will struggle to keep the centre open, pay wages and cover our daily running costs. It will make it impossible for charities like ours to exist in the future.

“The council say they are facing funding challenges because of what they are being allocated by the Scottish Government, so we want Humza Yousaf to visit and see first-hand the work we do. I also think it’s important for the First Minister to look those who face losing their jobs in the eye and meet the service users who will be forced further into poverty and social isolation.”

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Glasgow Times: Service users and volunteers at the centreService users and volunteers at the centre (Image: Gordon Terris)

William says decisions like this are hammering an already deprived community and is calling for an immediate rethink.

He added: “There is no thought whatsoever to the long-term damage losing our service will do. We rely on funding from the council and other partner agencies to keep going, if we are forced to close then where does that leave folk who rely on us for so many things?

“It’s shocking and that’s why we are demanding the decision-makers come here and see for themselves the impact this will have on struggling people, folk who don’t have the money to pay their bills, heat their homes, buy food or pay for childcare. We will be writing to Mr Yousaf personally and hope he does the right thing by acting on our concerns.”

Glasgow Times: Julie O'Byrne with school uniforms given to struggling familiesJulie O'Byrne with school uniforms given to struggling families (Image: Gordon Terris)

Bosses at North Lanarkshire Council say the changes to the Grant Awards Programme means that more organisations will be able to apply for a share of available cash.

A spokesperson said: "The review makes the programme fairer and will open up the opportunity for more community and voluntary sector organisations to receive funding.

"It is simply unfair that nine per cent of organisations receive more than 50 per cent of the available funding. The review provides financial support for those which are most severely affected.

"Ultimately, the review will help support the vital work of the sector across North Lanarkshire. It would be surprising if any group was wholly reliant on a single annual funding stream, however council officers will work with the group to ensure they are able to maximise applications to other funding providers."

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government says it is working hard to ensure that money is allocated to the right places.

They added: “The Scottish Government recognises the crucial role councils play in their communities, which is why their overall share of the 2024-25 Scottish Budget has been increased. In 2024-25, North Lanarkshire Council will receive £813.4 million, an increase of £44.7 million or 5.8% compared to 2023-24, to fund local services. In addition, all councils will receive their fair share of the currently undistributed sum of £365.3 million following agreement with COSLA.

“The Scottish Government is making available record funding of more than £14 billion to councils in 2024-25 – a real-terms increase of 3.2% compared with the previous year if the council tax freeze is accepted. In the face of a profoundly challenging financial situation for all parts of the public sector, it is for individual councils to determine their local spending priorities.”