£2m recycling hub wasted as social enterprise fails
The Herald Scotland
A NEW recycling centre built with more than £2 million National Lottery and charitable funding has been left in limbo after the social enterprise company behind it went bust.
The state-of-the-art building in one of the UK’s worst economic blackspots will lie empty for the foreseeable future after Social Enterprise Clydebank (SEC) collapsed, with the loss of its 26-strong staff.
The Big Lottery Fund in Scotland, which backed the centre with grants totalling £1.1m in 2009 and 2010, said salvaging the company and the plant had proved an impossible task.
Social Investment Scotland, which also sank £1 million into the project from the Scottish Investment Fund, said it and other partners were now looking for new uses for the building.
West Dunbartonshire Scottish Socialist Councillor Jim Bollan blamed bad management for the firm’s demise and branded the loss of potential jobs at the centre a disgrace.
He said: "It would be devastating for the local community and for the chance of employment if the recycling centre was left empty, and it couldn’t have come at a worst time.
"The situation is terrible but we are working away feverishly behind the scenes to put a package together and I am quite hopeful we can save the recycling centre."
He said he had been in talks with two other social enterprises and the council to look at ways to save the centre.
Mr Bollan raised concerns about SEC’s finances two months ago. He added: "It’s a disgrace. We are an unemployment blackspot and my main concern is the people who have lost jobs."
Social Enterprise Clydebank was set up in 2004 to provide maintenance services such as gardening, close cleaning, bulk uplifts and house clearances, largely to housing associations.
It was hoped the recycling centre would incorporate vocational training places and open for community use. But problems became apparent towards the end of last year, when the company asked West Dunbartonshire Council for two large grants.
In November, the council’s Executive Group agreed to fund the fitting out of the new building with a £140,000 payment.
An SEC application to the community planning partnership for £175,000 in revenue funding for the building was also approved, although a sub-group expressed concerns about the viability of the investment.
It appears, however, that these transactions did not take place before the company was liquidated on Friday March 2, with the recycling centre 90% complete.
A spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund said it had been trying to get a positive outcome over the past few weeks by working with SEC and stakeholders.
"Unfortunately, the serious financial situation which has now emerged, and tight timescales the organisation was faced with, have combined to make this an impossible task."
A spokesman for Social Investment Scotland added: "We are now all focused on working with other stakeholders and investors in an effort to secure an alternative occupier for what is a valuable community asset."
West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Government said they were working to help those affected by the collapse.
Erskine’s current plight is "tragic"
by Jeff Holmes, Paisley Daily Express
Campaigners last night called on both the UK and Scottish Governments to help a struggling veterans charity.
Bosses at Erskine have announced that the charity’s Erskine Print social enterprise business is to close as a result of heavy financial losses.
Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP Jim Sheridan said the news that Erskine is facing financial problems is “deeply concerning.”
Now, along with West of Scotland MSP Mary Fee, he is hoping the powers-that-be at Westminster and Holyrood will offer support to help secure the charity’s future.
Mr Sheridan told the Paisley Daily Express: “The charity has announced plans to close their Erskine Print company, while another of their enterprises, Erskine Furniture, is also under threat.
“These enterprises provide meaningful employment for former members of our armed forces.
“I have expressed to the Leader of the House of Commons my hope that the government would be able to utilise their procurement processes to provide assistance to Erskine, whose outstanding work in providing care and support to former members of our armed services must continue.
“The response from the Leader of the House, Sir George Young MP, was encouraging and, hopefully, the UK and Scottish governments, together with Renfrewshire Council, will be able to offer some assistance to Erskine.”
Ms Fee said Erskine’s current plight is “tragic”. She added: “This is a real blow to our ex-servicemen and women.
“Erskine provides excellent services and worthwhile job opportunities to all those who served in our armed forces.
“I am now calling on both governments and our local council to do all they can to protect the excellent social enterprises that Erskine have.”
The veterans charity has cited numerous reasons for the financial plight of Erskine Print and Erskine Furniture, including poor economic conditions, a shrinking market place and tougher competition from larger commercial companies.
The two social firms have run up a combined deficit of £495,000.
Erskine’s chief executive, Steve Conway, said: “It is regrettable that, despite our best efforts, we cannot continue to operate Erskine Print but we are affected by the economic situation that so many organisations are dealing with.
“These two of our social firms are costing us a large amount of money to run, so we need to take appropriate action to reduce the financial deficit.
“We have a good reputation for providing care to veterans and we must do all that we can to safeguard this.
“Our concentrated effort will focus on turning around Erskine Furniture. I hope that people will support us to do so.”