Cllr Michelle McGinty and some of the unidentified beneficiaries.
By Bill Heaney
There may be no money in the Council’s bank account for grass cutting or bussing children from deprived areas to school on cold and wet winter mornings, but it appears there is enough in the Church Street till to finance central heating and even double glazing projects.
Council taxpayers will be astonished to learn that the Labour administration has £1 million to distribute from the Cost of Living Capital Fund, which they set up last year.
That was when they were pleading poverty and preparing to increase the local council tax and allegedly fill a black hole of £21 million of budget cuts bequeathed to them by their SNP predecessors.
While they were searching around of course the Labour leader Martin Rooney, pictured left, was offering to loan money to the mega rich Lidl supermarket company to build a new premises in Alexandria Town Centre.
And get him off the hook for his false promises to Vale folk that things would only get better soon.
This was because Lidl weren’t being stupid enough to borrow the cash themselves in the middle of the current financial climate, soaring interest rates and 20 per cent inflation on foodstuffs.
The council have already loaned – maybe even gifted – around £6 million gifted – to a mega rich oil company, who are making fortunes from the current energy crisis, to clean up Esso’s old tank farm on Clydeside at Bowling.
There are pie in the sky promises that the end result will be 600 jobs at a new industrial estate. Believe that and I’ll send you a million acres of swampland to build houses on.
Our bountiful councillors created the £1 million fund last year and encouraged groups to bid for money that could be used to support the cost of living initiatives they provided locally.
There’s loadsamoney lying around, still about £750,000 I believe.
A spokesperson informed us today: “A total of 16 organisations were awarded money in the first phase, with funding being used to purchase a range of practical items. Money was also used for supporting the replacement of central heating and windows to reduce the outgoings costs and allowing groups to focus their spend on those who need it most.”
Awestruck Academy in Clydebank were awarded £29,589 in order to upgrade the nursery, kitchen, IT suite and leisure equipment.
Additionally, the spokesperson added: “The funding has boosted the services the organisation provides to the surrounding community, including free music, art and digital-learning sessions for children and adults.”
Councillor Michelle McGinty, pictured right, chair of the Council’s cross party Cost of Living Working Group, visited Awestruck this week to see first-hand what they offer.
She said: “This is a fantastic facility which is doing so much for children, adults and the whole community. When the cost of everything around us is soaring, from food to energy, organisations like Awestruck Academy come into their own, and ensure that adults and children alike have a safe space to gather and enjoy themselves while participating in a range of different activities.
“When we set up our cost of living supports, as a Council we understood that we could not best serve our communities if we worked alone. That is why this capital fund is so important as it allows valued community groups to improve facilities and enhance their provision for the benefit of our most vulnerable.”
Dumbstruck Dumbartonians have been informed by Councillor Clare Steel, Vice Chair of the group: “I know how important Awestruck Academy is for so many local children, offering them a safe space to participate in classes or simply build up confidence through the encouragement from their peers and leaders.”
Meanwhile, some children have little to eat and their parents cannot afford their bills to do the cooking, washing or keep the house warm, never mind paying for transport to get them to school.
Cllr Steel said: “Supporting groups like this is a vital part of navigating our communities through this cost of living crisis because they are a lifeline for so many.”
Allan Rutherford, who set up Awestruck Academy in 2017, said: “We are so grateful to receive the funding to improve our facilities and encourage even more children and adults in to use our space.
“The cost of living is affecting so many of us, including our academy, and this funding has meant we can stop worrying about how we continue to provide the service and focus on making sure the community has a warm, friendly and welcoming place to go and enjoy.”
Other organisations awarded Cost of Living Capital funding include Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol, who received £39,644 to pay for double glazing, central heating, rewiring and flooring in order to reduce energy costs.
Many citizens, as we are now referred to by council staff, will be wondering why projects such as this cannot be placed on the back burner until the current cost of living crisis is over.
Lomond and Clyde Care and Repair were awarded £22,000 to purchase a van which will help with the delivery of their housing repair service; Daniel’s Wish received £9,143 for the purchase of sensory equipment to help children and young people with complex needs; while Tullochan was awarded £9,663 to purchase a commercial range cooker and ventilation for the Common Good Café.
The spokesman said: “A total of £226,924 was awarded in year one (2022/23) with a remaining £773,076 left to be distributed in years two to four.”