Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on how a successful reuse project set up under the You Can Grow umbrella was scuppered by nepotism, favouritism and local politics!
During the final year of delivering our pioneering growing project “Food for Life” at St. Ronan’s primary school, Innerleithen; we embarked on a reuse project working with Dominic Hodgkiss from Scottish Borders Council’s Waste Services. Initially we setup a 3 month pilot to collect data on number of gardening items going to landfill. Alex Wilson, Project Manager was working with the council to setup this much needed service as part of the recycling facilities at Eshiels, near Peebles.
Our pilot was an instant success and we were given a contract, unpaid of course, to collect unwanted gardening tools to be refurbished and given back to the community. We developed a partnership with Scottish Prison Service(Saughton) and Garvald Edinburgh where tools collected from Eshiels would be taken to Edinburgh, repaired and refurbished as new and then delivered back to us to pass on to communities. All this was done by our organisation using our own financial resources in the hope that after proving its success and providing evidence of need, reduction of items going to landfill and huge carbon savings to the council we would be given a service level agreement (contract) that would at least cover all our running costs. During this time with the help and support of Dominic Hodgkiss we expanded the gardening tools reuse hub to all other recycling centres in the Borders. The whole project was now set to move to the next phase with the approval of our financial proposal to the council.
We were informed that there was no money to support this project even though the costs on a yearly basis to the council would be less than £20,000! SBC elected councillors turned up for a photo opportunity in the beginning of the contract, but this project has never been a priority for the current ruling administration as I have known to be very vocal about my views and my organisation has paid a heavy price over the years. Elected representatives and community leaders back only those local groups, organisations and individuals that keep their mouths shut or make funds available to organisations that they themselves are on the boards as Chair or Directors. £15 million for iPads can be made available in an instant to boost the egos of this current administration but not £20,000 a year for a reuse project that has proved beyond doubt its impact and community benefit. I have never pandered to politicians and their ideologies and have constantly paid the price in our so called democracy!
The decision to not fund this initiative financially was taken before Covid-19!
Finally! With a heavy heart we had to take the decision to terminate this project as no financial package was forthcoming. We have suffered a financial loss during this time but that’s all part of the political game and not having a “Godfather” and not being one of the boys! has definitely not helped. It’s time to expose these individuals and organisations that claims that they have the communities interest at heart.
On a positive note, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff, volunteers, supporters and well-wishers including our partners Saughton Prison, Garvald Edinburgh, Dominic Hodgkiss (SBC), Change Works (Peebles) and Why Not? (Galashiels) for their whole hearted support of this pioneering project in the Borders.
Wishing all a Happy New Year 2021!