Scottish government faces backlash over distribution of £1m grant in West Lothian



A fund which will see West Lothian get a £1m spending boost has been criticized for not giving enough money to help one of the area’s most deprived communities.

Communities across West Lothian are set to see a £1m boost from the latest tranche of Holyrood funding for the Town Center Fund, which has £500,000 being divided up by communities across all nine wards, and the Community Wealth Building Fund, which offers £500,000 planned for five specific projects in the county, each receiving £100,000.

But both have drawn criticism for the way they are distributed.

A core criticism of the Town Center Fund is the way its is calculated and distributed to all communities with populations of over 1,000, which councillors argue his has led to glaring disparities.

The SNPs depute group leader Councilor Frank Anderson is a strident critic, along with Tory councillors, of the funding calculations.

At the recent local area committee for his ward – East Livingston and East Calder – he pointed out that Craigshill, one of the poorest and most densely populated areas in Livingston, will get just £12,156 – the lowest figure in the council ward that takes in five other communities.

All six communities in the East Livingston and East Calder ward get a total of £83,564 to spend on projects to improve the town center environments.

Councilor Anderson told the meeting: “It would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity once again to make the point that, if we actually look at the tables, Craigshill has the sixth largest population and, once again, it has the fifth lowest allocation of money. The tables get reversed.”

He added: “It’s one of the biggest areas of deprivation in West Lothian, and if we compare it with East Whitburn and Seafield, who have a fifth of the population of Craigshill and yet get the equivalent money, there is something far wrong with the allocation of this money.”

He has long argued that the Town Center Fund should recognize Livingston as a collection of communities rather than one single town.

The Community Wealth Building has also been criticized for being ‘undemocratic’ in the way it allocates funds.

Regeneration officers have been flagging up details of the new funding at meetings of the local area committees, encouraging applications from community and voluntary groups.

But local people have less than a month to put their bids in. The deadline is 5pm on Friday, 22 April.

Some communities saw decisions last year on the Town Center Improvement Fund made relatively easily, such as in Fauldhouse and the Breich Valley. In Linlithgow, however, councilors faced a wish list of projects applying for funding totaling £7m, for a pot of just £150,000.

There are a number of examples of capital projects being delivered across Scotland to deliver Community Wealth Building. These include: projects which tackle under-utilized land and derelict buildings; develop low carbon and renewable energy schemes; develop land and property to create employment and training in areas such as food production in community food schemes.

The £100,000 schemes could also be used to develop local transport models. There is potential for this and the other examples across West Lothian.

The council’s Planning and Economic Development teams are keen too to avoid the criticism of previous years that local people did not get much of say in how money was spent in their area because of tight time frame for decision making.

In an attempt to get head off previous difficulties the council has produced two contact web pages to provide groups with information.

For the Town Center Fund go to:-

https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/article/44630/West-Lothian-Town-Centre-Capital-Fund-2022-23

And for the Community Wealth Building Fund go to:- https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/pbip

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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