Aberdeen residents have come out in force to show their support for a community project facing cuts.
Fountain and Fersands Community Project held a public meeting yesterday at the Woodside Fountain Centre, in the wake of news that it could face a cut of £91,000 to its budget.
Residents and users of the project’s services, which includes nursery classes, a music group and a food pantry that is the first of its kind in Scotland, turned up in high numbers to support the treasured facility.
Along with the meeting to show their frustrations, staff and users of the project are planning to hold a protest outside Marischal College on Tuesday, when the final decision on the Aberdeen City Council budget will be made.
Addressing the crowd, Mark Lovie, the project co-ordinator at Fersands and Fountain, said: “It’s been overwhelming to see the level of support we’ve already had.
“We invited all the councillors to come here this morning, but unfortunately none of them could attend.
“In my opinion, we’ve got to try and change these proposals, influence the people who are making these decisions and make it clear how important these services are to the local community.”
Mark said problems with youth crime in the area dropped drastically in recent years, attributing much of that to the work of the project.
He said: “We’ve got probably the lowest youth crime in the city, and that’s because the kids have got stuff to do. They’ve got positive things to do, they’re learning, they’re having fun.”
“The project is here to help all the people in the local area.”
Jill Bertram, 49, Project Volunteer, Woodside
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this project.”
Jonathan Bertram, 21, full-time parent, Seaton
“If these cuts go ahead, my children might not be able to go to nursery or playgroup anymore.”
Laura Thouless, 30, full-time parent, Woodside
“The council don’t seem to understand what these cuts will do to the community.”
Shireen Smith, 42, full-time parent, Woodside
Claire Whyte, a support worker at the project, said: “If there’s one positive thing that comes out of this, it shows that we’re doing what we set out to do, we’re making the community proud of the work that we’re doing and it shows. Look at the amount of people who came here in support.”
Mark believes that, if the proposals are passed by councillors on Tuesday, members of staff could be lost at the project.
He said: “Because of the type of cut this is, there’s only one place that we can take that from.
“We can’t cut back on rent, running costs or activities, because they come from a different budget.
“So this will affect full-time workers, community workers and development workers, they are most under threat and that has an effect on services.
“It’s difficult to say how much of the services will go, we don’t know at this point.”
Mark said the cuts represent a “downward spiral” that means the project can no longer make money from the services they provide, because they will have to make cutbacks.
He said: “We get a fee from the council for the projects that we run at the family centre.
“If we have to cut back on staff, that means we have to cut back on the amount of kids that we take in, which means we can’t make as much money.
“So we get caught up in a negative cycle.”
Charlene Kilpatrick, the chairwoman of the Woodside Network, who was also at the meeting, described the cuts as “horrific”.
She said: “Some of these projects that are run from here have been supporting people for 20 or 30 years.
“The work that people here do is absolutely amazing.
“If these cuts go through, you will see crime go up in the area and you will see the health and wellbeing of people in the area decline.”