Edinburgh Council has been in a mess for quite some time. Since May 2007, most would agree. The Liberal Democrat led (SNP supported) administration has presided over a number of mishandled crises. The most prominent was the botched plan to close 22 schools and community centres.

The Council has now excelled itself by proposing to slash funding to a wide range of voluntary sector projects. A substantial number of the grant cuts from Children and Families are 100%. Meanwhile the Council found thousands of pounds to bail out the unprofitable bits of The Gathering.

This adds to the mess the Council has made of re-tendering both Care and Homelessness services.

Obviously there is a real problem in public sector funding. But these cuts are guaranteed to stack up problems for the future. They seem targeted at the most vulnerable, and at communities which have borne the brunt of de-industrialisation and urban decline.

Amongst the 100% losers in the proposed cuts are:

  • Lesbian and Gay Switchboard
  • Bingham and District 50+ project
  • Barnardo’s Lighthouse Project
  • Edinburgh Greenspace Trust
  • Eric Liddell Centre

These funding decisions are difficult. But the approach taken by the Council seems to be to lay waste to large areas of important provision. We will see the effect of these cuts in higher costs to the health service, to other public services and in diminution of the quality of life provided by many of these organisations.

When there is money to be found for celebratory dinners, it is clear that the Council has an anti-voluntary sector agenda. Many Liberal Democrat councillors would rather a fiver off the council tax than have it spent on someone poorer or more unfortunate than themselves.

I’m not sure that Liberal Democrat voters thought that’s what they were getting when the voted in 2007. Indeed, looking at the Liberal Democrats’ 2007 manifesto (pdf) it’s difficult to see which of the multitude of promises would be delivered.

What Edinburgh seems to have ended up with is an administration of Thatcherite shock troopers, committed to purging the council of services for the most vulnerable. We’ll see in 2012 if this is what Liberal Democrat voters really wanted. And the people of Edinburgh will have to live with the disastrous effects for decades.