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Community scheme warns budget proposals would hurt ‘hundreds of families’

One of Aberdeen’s biggest community schemes has warned that “hundreds of families” will be affected by the council’s proposal to slash its budget by 40%.

Fersands and Fountain Community Project currently employs 26 workers and augments that with 20 volunteers to deliver a wide range of services to young people across arts, music, science and sport, while working with partner organisations to provide childcare and help vulnerable people with mental health problems.

Aberdeen City Council confirmed this week it will make cuts of up to £44 million this year, and that may require the loss of jobs and such amenities as libraries and public toilets.

However, one of the Fersands and Fountain Project workers, Claire Whyte, told the Press and Journal she was shocked by the scale of the suggested cuts, which threaten to “hit vulnerable people the hardest”.

She said: “The news has come like a bolt out of the blue and it is obviously a worrying time for many.

“Hundreds of people will be affected if these cuts are agreed and this is happening when youth crime is at an all-time low in the city, precisely because of the work we and other organisations have done.

“We have services for young, vulnerable families, nursery provision and services essential to childcare expansion in Aberdeen.

“We organise after-school clubs, breakfast clubs, junior groups, sports sessions, science clubs, music lessons, for five to 12-year-olds and many similar initiatives for teenagers.

“It doesn’t make sense to cut these things. Our budget has already fallen in real terms. But this seems like a depressingly knee-jerk reaction.”

The council currently gives the Fersands and Fountain Community Project an annual grant of £232,000 towards its core costs, but the authority has now proposed reducing that by 40% to £141,000 – a cut of more than £90,000.

The group has arranged a meeting this morning with campaigners, councillors and those who use the wide range of services provided.

Mrs Whyte said: “We will have to do what we can to ensure we can carry on helping people who need it, but there is only do much you can do when the cuts are of this severity.

“We’ve led the way in offering so many community services, which are worthwhile and helping so many. But there will be tough decisions ahead, unless we can sort this out.”

One of the ruling Conservative/Labour/Independent councillors said yesterday: “We understand the anxiety felt by many groups who see proposals to cut their funding.

“Some very difficult decisions need to be taken next week, due to the funding shortfall from the Scottish Government.

“I hope we’ll do everything possible to minimise the impact on the most vulnerable groups in our city.

“We are faced with horrible choices in this Budget and are very conscious of the impact our decisions will have.”

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