Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Mela bosses condemn pulled funding move

Edinburgh Mela

The founders of a 20-year-old multi-cultural festival in Edinburgh have urged the council and national funding body to explain to the public why they have pulled funding.

Edinburgh Council, which gave £76,679 to the Edinburgh Mela in 2015, said it will not commit funds this year.

Creative Scotland, which awarded £80,000 to the festival in 2015, said it did not have confidence in the Mela.

The Mela said "unjustified criticisms" were putting the event at risk.

The senior council official who pulled the funding told the Mela board he "did not accept" that all their questions and concerns had been addressed.

The board, led by former Edinburgh deputy lieutenant Shami Khan, said they have followed due diligence and pressed the council for clarification.

In emails, council executive director Paul Lawrence said: "I do not see the value in providing you with all the detail on why the council feels the Mela's governance, capacity and leadership is not at a level we can support."

The board has called on the council to make its concerns public.

In a statement, the board said: "The Mela board has been subjected to unjustified criticisms from the council and Creative Scotland regarding leadership, management, governance, rotation, OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) threats and skills.

"A business plan was demanded. The Mela board has answered questions asked and responded to demands many times to repetitive requests.

"In contrast, questions asked by the Mela board have remained unanswered."

It added: "The justification for proposing the destruction of the present Mela board and replacing it by 1 September 2016 must be explained to the public by Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland.

"It is not based on the Mela board not following its constitution, nor is it based on the failure of past Mela festivals.

"If the Mela Festival dies in 2016 and does not return, Edinburgh council and Creative Scotland will remain responsible."

The board said the council's concerns stem from a complaint raised by an aggrieved member of staff who resigned amid "financial irregularities".

Police Scotland has confirmed it has "been made aware of claims relating to financial irregularities involving an individual".

A spokeswoman said: "As this is forming part on an ongoing inquiry, which includes establishing whether a crime has been committed, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

A joint statement from Edinburgh council and Creative Scotland said: "The council and Creative Scotland have been in detailed discussions with the Mela board for several months and have sought assurances on the many challenges facing the festival.

"The information submitted does not provide confidence that the Mela board can resolve the current difficulties, and as such, the council has now reluctantly taken the decision not to release public funds to this year's festival.

"The council and Creative Scotland are long-standing supporters of the Edinburgh Mela and the cultural benefits the event brings.

"We are disappointed a resolution has not been achieved and hope the Mela's current challenges can be addressed so that the festival can return in 2017."

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