Monday 05th June 2023,
North Edinburgh Community News

Muirhouse Millennium Centre facing closure

Muirhouse Millennium Centre will close at the end of March unless much needed funding is sought to keep the project running.

The centre which opened its doors in August 2000 has seen funding from the City of Edinburgh Council slashed in recent years and their last grant was for a paltry £7,634 back in 2019.

In recent years the project has welcomed Low Income Families Together (LIFT) into the building and the two organisations have created a formidable partnership and deliver various groups and classes to around 500 local people each week.

All of that is now in jeopardy as spiralling electricity and gas costs and a lack of funding mean the building will close in ten weeks.

A public meeting has been called for next week to share the news with residents and also seek much needed support to save the centre.

Project manager, Peter Airlie, has been involved at the Millenium Centre since it opened and was even on the planning group that campaigned to get it built.

He said: “When the centre first opened with SIP funding we were receiving £107,000 each year to operate and then in 2009 we received a 50 per cent cut to the budget.

“Since then we have relied on room hires to pay the bills.

“When Pauline from LIFT came here to work it seemed the obvious thing for us to do was to join up and work together as they’re doing the work that we believe we should be doing – but we haven’t been funded to do it.

“We are not here to make money but now the group rental is not covering the bills and we really have no alternative but to close the doors at the end of March.”

Centre manager, Peter Airlie (middle) with former local politicians.

The centre was built with funding from Lottery and Urban Aid Funds at a cost of over £800,000 and last year it benefitted from a £100,000 upgrade after LIFT secured funding from the Scottish Government.

Local people still run the project which is also a charity and employ staff to run the project daily – now the four staff members face losing their jobs.

The public meeting organised for next week will give people the opportunity to ask questions about the project and any elected politicians who attend.

Peter added: “The work we do here saves the council fortunes. LIFT has managed to save the Council over £2million in the last year alone by helping people get out of temporary accommodation, this then reduces the amount of money being paid to landlords.

“LIFT as a project will continue to operate but they won’t have a building to work from and that will have a massive impact on the local community.

“The project funding we are getting is to put on face-to-face groups and not for our overheads.

“There was money earmarked for the Prentice Centre that wasn’t used so I have no idea why they won’t divert that to us.

“Instead they will wait until the last minute when the doors are closed before they look to take action.

“We have a valuable resource here but it will be lost and local people will be the losers.

“North Edinburgh has suffered from years of disinvestment over the years. We have lost lots of projects and excellent community workers over the years and it is all caused by a lack of funding for community work.”

The centre has opened up an online fundraising page in the hope of raising money to keep it open beyond March.

Locals fear that if the project closes then the doors will never reopen and the vital community resource will be lost.

Despite LIFT having ongoing funding from the Scottish Government it is feared that without a centre to work from their users will be adversely affected by the closure.

Pauline Nicol-Bowie, CEO, from Low Income Families Together (LIFT)

Founder, Pauline Bowie, explains: “LIFT has funding to continue well beyond March but we need a base for our groups.

“I don’t understand why the council just can’t give the centre £50,000 to secure it. We have a great community hub in Muirhouse that is used by hundreds of people each week.

“I don’t understand why the money can’t be allocated from the council and secure the centre’s future.

“We understand that the two other projects who were allocated £50,000 as an emergency grant had to prove they would be sustainable, we are sustainable as a project but need funds for the running costs.”

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