Q&A Election Candidates Q7.

HERE for Caithness

Question 7.

The work of the third sector is impacted by uncertainty because of short term funding provided by many statutory agencies, if elected what efforts would you make to change this and give organisations doing vital work a degree of financial security.

Thurso & Northwest Caithness

Iain Gregory

I have a lot of experience in this area. For many years now, functions which were – and actually should be – the duty of government, have been left to the third-sector. Whilst superb work is done, these organisations require reliable, adequate, and consistent funding. Why on earth should a charity delivering vital services have to employ staff on fixed-term contracts, with no guarantees that the money will be there to continue their employment after one or two years? This requires a whole new approach, and once again it is time for action. I intend to work with the third-sector, and with Government Ministers, to seek solutions. We need a central fund, with local administrators, to rectify this anomaly. This is actually not difficult – what is required is a system whereby, when a need has been identified and funding agreed, a guarantee from the central fund is given to support the post, or organisation, for a far longer period. For example, if say an energy adviser has been appointed for a local organisation, and new private financing cannot be found after the funding period expires, then the “Guarantee” can kick in to cover the cost. There will be other ideas, but this one has possibilities.

Ron Gunn

To be honest I am not sure how to address this. I mentioned above that I would like to help introduce a ‘Taskforce’ to deal with the cost of living crisis and this is something else such a group could look at. Meantime, there are individuals in our community who are experts in finding funding. I am not one of them but I would have no problem in seeking advice from suitably qualified folk.

Matthew Reiss

I am a Director of Caithness Mental Health Support Group. I believe that Scottish Government should trust Councils to know how best to distribute cash. Each Council should be free to allocate cash from their overall budget for the Third sector, building in longer term financial stability/certainty, subject to good performance. Incidentally, I would also slash much of the wasted energy spent filling in endless returns, audits and the like.

Struan Mackie

I believe that all local and central government departments should work to a rolling three-year budget, published annually.

At the Highland Council I lobbied heavily to introduce multi-year budgets for the benefit of the groups who relied on Council funding, a policy adopted in most areas of the Council’s financial planning system. It is disappointing that the settlement from Scottish Government remains a one-year-only commitment… but this is systematic of failings across Holyrood and Westminster to provide certainty of public funds.

Rolling multi-year settlements out across all statutory agencies would provide greater certainty to the third sector, as well as local government. This will end the cyclical rotation between ‘feast and famine for vital local groups… who will now be able to maintain vital projects from year to year.

Alex Glasgow

All charitable and voluntary organizations seeking funding should be advized to diversify their streams. This was one of the challenges the former Caithness Horizons faced as it became reliant on individual streams.

That said, previous administrations of the HC have reduced core funding which has impacted on many small groups and organizations. Some of this has gone to other budgetary areas, some to offset deficits.

Any cllr who made this decision or would vote similarly in the future should be aware that attending to one area could have negative impacts on another.

I would promote better support of these areas and work with regional funds such as the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund.

Karl Rosie

Firstly, this question is very relevant in the context of the ongoing redesign of health and social care in Caithness, where it has been recognised that the third and voluntary sector are often able to deliver health and care services more effectively.

The remaining challenge is to design a structure to manage and deliver those services whilst ensuring sustainability for the organisations involved.

The role that the Third Sector plays is recognised as being vital across our communities in the Highlands.

If re-elected, I would want to see a review of the existing relationships, how funding is targeted and ensuring that the front lone services that are able to be so effective are supported correctly and to explore collaborative partnerships that enable creative and innovative approaches to improve the Council’s statutory service provision.

Wick & East Caithness

Bill Fernie

This question has been asked for many years. The solution is of course two if not three years funding agreements. The problem is that the council often only gets one years funding assurance from Scottish Government who interim pass the same problem Westminster. I have seen this from both sides as a previous Budget Leader and chair of the Resources committee and then being involved in third sector organisations as Chair of CHAT, Chair of Laurandy Day Centre and a director/treasurer on Home Start Caithness. There is no doubt in my mind that it is a huge problem leading to organisation making less efficient short term decision about how they run and also the stress on their staff not being assured that there jobs are safe. This also impacts on the level of pay for staff where each year committees wrestle with the level of pay rise they can afford to keep up with the cost of living. I will keep pressing for multi-year settlements.

Willie Mackay

As a volunteer myself of some 23 years in Caithness I can assure you the local authority has never relied on volunteers so much as they do now. I will endeavour to make sure that this work has to be acknowledged and appreciated and our statutory agencies and authority have to come more that half way to meet our third sector if not we are not going to come anywhere near in appreciating the valuable contribution they make .

Neil MacDonald

I well recognise this issue and have long fought for most stability for the voluntary sector. I understand that due to Council funding being handed down from year to year it makes it difficult for longer settlements to be put in place for the voluntary sector. However I do not believe it is impossible and the Council should at least have a forward plan of what services it will be paying for and a formula in place so that the third sector knows roughly what it will receive. However, in the long term the Council should be looking at building it’s own reserves and income to allow it the freedom to give greater security to the third sector. I spoke about community wealth building and income generation earlier and should that be successful it would give the Council much more freedom to offer security to others.

Jan McEwan

I appreciate that covid has hit third sector agencies hard and they are struggling with limited resources. These agencies are vital to our communities and I would fight to see a fairer annual distribution of funding to give these agencies security to allow them to plan their future without having to spend significant amount of their time securing funding. This is another area that wind farm developers could help with through their constraints payments.

Andrew Jarvie

As someone who, until recently, worked as a Comms Officer for a national charity this is something I am acutely aware of. It’s not just the uncertainly and being unable to offer staff permanent contracts, there are savings to be had when you can budget over multiple years opposed to just dealing with one year at a time. The Council and Government can take the burden of providing multi-year budgets and if they really value the service being provided, then they should.

Raymond Bremner

I recognise that the Third Sector plays a vital part in providing essential services to our communities in the Highlands. If re-elected, I would want Highland Council to review the relationship that it has with the Third Sector with a view to strengthening the support in various ways, not just financially. I would like to see a review of funding to ensure all avenues for finance are considered and that funding is targeted at supporting front-line service delivery within the Third Sector and with a longer term vision, including financial. I would look to continue to work with our Third Sector partners to provide high quality staff and volunteer led commissioned children’s services. I would also look to develop existing Third Sector collaborations to make the most of available resources and explore creative ways they can support the Council’s statutory service provision.

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