Bute charity’s work ‘will cease without short-term financial help’

THE chairman of Bute Community Links has warned that the organisation will no longer be able to provide support for the island’s voluntary organisations unless it can obtain short-term financial support in the next few weeks.

Bill McQueen has written an open letter, via The Buteman, to all associated organisations and charities on the island to bring them up to date with BCL’s current position, and to ask if those groups can help bridge the organisation’s financial gap until new sources of funding for the next financial year come on line in the next two or three months.

We reported in November on Bute Community Links’ expulsion from the Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface (TSI) – a group of similar organisations formed to represent and support voluntary groups in the area – for failing to provide statistical returns about its finances and activities.

Mr McQueen’s letter reads, in full, as follows.

Dear friend,

As I am sure you are aware, Bute Community Links is currently undergoing a period of trauma, in that the services of this island-based organisation have been affected by unnecessary changes in our source of Scottish Government funding.

Formed originally in 1982, we have strived over the years to provide the voluntary organisations of Bute with the support they have deserved in delivering a wide range of community services to those in the community who cannot help themselves.

Similarly, we have been a catalyst in making many of you aware of your own skills through our volunteering network service. Many of the organisations now in existence on the island owe their origins to work done, and funding raised, by Bute Community Links.

BCL was instrumental in setting up the Third Sector Partnership in Argyll and Bute in 2010 to centralise funding from the Scottish Government. The other partners were Argyll Voluntary Action (AVA), Argyll and Bute Social Enterprise Network (ABSEN) and Islay and Jura CVS.

Unfortunately, differences occurred between us and the other three partners. Instead of realising the difficulties we were having at that time, they chose to expel us permanently from the partnership, and have withheld the funding earmarked for us since July of last year. There was no appeal process – they were judge and jury.

I assumed the role of CEO on an unpaid basis in October 2011, and since then have fought – initially to repair fences, and then to retrieve some of the funding that, in our opinion, is due to us.

I have had considerable support from our local councillors, and also from our MSP, Michael Russell, and I am determined that we will do everything in our power to resolve this part of the dispute.

We have, over the last few months, been in active consultation with other organisations – mainly the Rustle Way Foundation – and the volunteers of this group are keen to support and maintain a Bute-based network for volunteers and the organisations they support.

This new and exciting partnership is aimed at supporting all of you, now and in the future, and with both the Bute partnership development and your participation, Bute really has to offer its community real hope in becoming an example in helping others in economically and socially difficult times.

We have identified several really good sources of funding for the next financial year. The immediate problem, however, is that our reserves are running out, and any new funding is bound to take two or three months to come on line. We urgently need some additional input to help us through this short period.

The point of this letter is to bring you up to date with the current position, and to ask you if you could help us ‘bridge the gap’. If all the organisations we have helped and supported over the years were to donate what you can afford – up to a maximum of £100 per organisation – this would help us in maintaining a vital community link here on Bute.

Bute Community Links needs your support. Without it, many of the community-led services that currently operate for your benefit on Bute will cease, unless we obtain short-term financial support for the next few weeks.

Please rest assured that I and a large number of very willing supporters are working very hard to actively pursue every opportunity of strengthening and expanding the role of BCL, some of which will become apparent over the next few weeks.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I am sure you will do everything you can do to ensure that BCL survives.

It is, in my opinion, essential that the organisations on the island continue to be supported, and that this support comes from people on the island who understand the needs of this island community.

Bill McQueen MBE

CEO, Bute Community Links

12 Bishop Street