Friday, November 21, 2014

Culbin sands bridge thank you

One of our regular readers tells us: 

"Wondered if you could put a thank you on your page from all the walkers, dog walkers and runners who now have the benefit of a bridge to get to the beach from Kingsteps. I have attached a photo and would like to thank the person or people involved who kindly replaced the previous crossing which was removed by the high tides some time ago. Not the time of year to choose to get wet feet!"

This observer would think that Tom Wright, Morton Gillespie and Arthur Masson could be the targets for our regular reader's vote of thanks. Here's a previous Gurn article from earlier this year: " The Culbin Sands bridge disaster - March 2014 - Images and story by Morton Gillespie."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

River CC happy with Rosebank Hall proposal but worries about Manor Care Centre flats

At their regular meeting last week the proposal to turn the Rosebank Church Hall into a dwelling house got the approval of Tommy Hogg and his River Community Council colleagues. The watchdogs were not so happy with the  Manor Care Centre's proposal for twelve flats however and are to hold further discussions before submitting their views as statutory consultees. 

Jeanne Tolmie said: "I have misgivings about this development, quite frankly and I've also problems with the actual siting of this, it looks as if it is over development and I'm very concerned about the wildlife in that site as well. We'll really have to think seriously about this."

9 years in the coming but County finally win at Grant Street Park - pictures Kenny MacLeod - Clach 0 Nairn 2

Individual images here.  A victory that means so much to the Wee County faithful. Match report here. 

Fancy a Sunday job once a fortnight? Details of groundstaff vacancies at Station Park here. 

Missing Dog Nairn cross Alsation/wolf - not seen since 5 p.m. Weds 19th

A dog has gone missing since yesterday she is a cross Alsation/Wolf type bitch. One of our
regular readers asks Gurnites to keep a eye out for her and pass the word around. She was last seen at PJ Grant and Sons at yesterday and hasn't been seen since if anybody sees her can they phone ******* and the number will transfer over to a mobile number.
Dog now found :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Forres Street Parade - one for Nairn to copy asp?

Thanks to the regular reader who forwarded the link to an imaginative site for Forres High Street:

"Forres Street Parade is a website designed to value the past, celebrate the present and draw the attention of a world-wide audience to its history, its architectural heritage, its commercial life and to the spirit of our Royal Burgh.

Both sides of Forres High Street and Tolbooth Street are depicted as end-to-end and roof-to-pavement vistas, with archive images of times past and narrative-panels presenting brief histories of present-day buildings. The website includes our growing number of video interviews with shop and business proprietors to give a sense of the personality behind the shop front. This is an ongoing development process which is being updated day-by-day."

How would we pay for this I hear someone out there saying? How about using some of the eventual Lidl/Home Bargains/pub/restaurant sweetener cash planning gain funds should that application be successful.

Christmas lights and trees turn on Friday 28th November

River CC to support plan for 20 mph speed limit in their area

Support towards a 20 mile speed limit from River CC members last week at their regular meeting in the URC hall. Before them was a map showing proposed 20 mph limits in the town centre areas, Queenspark, Wellington and Waverley Roads, Lodgehill Road, Chattan Drive, Tulloch and Forbes Drives and Kilaravock Crescent. In fact everything between the A96 after the Showfield and the River. The Fishertown is already a 20 mph zone apart from Harbour Street that was left out of the original "20's plenty" initiative. 

Liz MacDonald suggested that the Community Council include a proposal in their submission to include Harbour Street in the Fishertown 20 mph zone. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

People who like Danny also like venison too apparently

There's been a spate of articles out there recently focussing on this YouGov profiling feature that lets you have a bit of fun. Click on the favourite dishes tab on this lifestyle page of YouGovers that like Danny Alexander MP and you can see how heavily venison features in their lifestyle for example.

Thanks to our regular reader who sent us this link. A quick flashback moment as this observer immediately thought of former Lib Dem Highland Councillor Oor Graham (Graham Marsden) and his call for Sainsbury's to stock local venison some time ago: "Graham's campaign for real venison in Sainsbury's Nairn" Oh the heady days of December 2011 - the way we were. 

Meanwhile a Daily Telegraph article focuses on Danny's prospects in the forthcoming General Election in May 2015: "
"Danny Alexander 'will lose seat in 2015 unless there is a miracle turnaround' according to Lib Dem strategist." More here.  Still a week is a long time in politics and there is an eternity between now and May but looking tight for Danny according to the bookies and the Telegraph's source. 

Police in Nairn appeal for information following theft of bike

Between 11am and 2pm on Saturday 15th November 2014, a hybrid bike was stolen from the the rear of Scotmid, Bridge Street, Nairn.

The cycle is descirbed as being a men's black Carrera Hybrid cycle,with a silver metallic handle bar extender, silver lights front and rear, a pedometer and disc brakes front and rear. The cycle was secured with a combination lock that has also been stolen.

If anyone has any information on this incident they are encouraged to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nairn Common Good £187K loss investigation - report now available online - 11 pages but with names redacted

To read the report. Go to this page detailing the agenda of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee to be held this Thursday the 20th, click on item four and a PDF file will download.

Information before the report proper states:

"In view of the issues raised within the report, the Chief Executive has requested the Head of People & Performance and the Head of Corporate Governance to consider whether any disciplinary action or other action is appropriate."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Formartine 4 Nairn 3 - Pictures from Donald Matheson

Individual images here. 

A poem for the weekend from anonymous

Nairn is worried, a terrible crisis,
Not fear of Jihad or even Isis,
No fear of Ebola reaching our shires
Or people with families in terrible wars!
A horrible panic, all in despair ,
About the bloody notice board in Castle Square.

An article with comments on the notice board issue is ongoing here. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Highland Council austerity cuts - Communities will have to be quick to shout out for the resources they wish to protect?

The Highland Council's austerity budget survey will come to an end soon. We have featured some of the possible impacts on our community in recent articles, including one where Liz MacDonald alerts us to the possible loss of 50% loss of the funding to Nairn Community and Arts Centre. 

Elsewhere others are waking up to the cuts that are to come. Down in Newtonmore the supporters of the Highland Folk Museum have been quick off the mark to start a social media campaign to prevent the closure of their local facility. 

The Folk Museum is a pan-Highland cultural facility and because of that efforts to save it from the full impact of cuts will probably get more momentum than any similar initiatives to protect the likes of our Community Centre or museum, etc ever would. In effect, across the Highlands communities will be competing against each other to offset the impact of austerity cuts in their localities. Those who wish to protect the folk museum are very wise in getting in early with a profile raising exercise. 

One of our regular readers said recently that this was a bad time to be a councillor as there were no easy choices to be made. Another has said that there is also a threat to Nairn Museum with it possibly losing a substantial part of its funding too. Nairn museum charges admission and is independently run. The Highland Folk Museum is run by the Highland Council’s “arm’s length” organisation Highlife Highland and entry is free so comparison is difficult but in its own way our small museum may do a lot to bring visitors to the town.

Coincidently, another of our readers has been concerned about the amount of public money going into the Highland Folk Museum for some time and would like to see it run on a more business orientated basis, especially as we move into the first waves of massive cuts. Our correspondent has stated:

“Apparently the original thinking behind the Highland Folk Park was to help create long term jobs and bring tourists into the area. It has been successful but at what cost? The fact that it is open only during the summer months and has the support of substantial numbers of volunteers helps to keep the running costs down enormously.” Our regular reader added that they thought the donation boxes dotted around the site were of little use and that there should be a sliding scale of charges for admission.

Our correspondent has given us figures that demonstrate that the Highland Folk Museum had expenditure of £535,000 in 2013 and income from donations and secondary spend of only £185,000. Campaigners to save the museum also call for charges to be made too, stating on a causes page:

“1. Get Highland Council to re-introduce entry charges at the Highland Folk Museum Newtonmore, with the aim of protecting our heritage  

2. To prevent the closure/sale of the Highland Folk Museum by the Highland Council

3. To ensure the Highland Folk Museum Collections remain in Badenoch.”

Compared to the potential of the Folk Museum to up their game and introduce charges what can our local museum do in a similar vein to raise? There have already been efforts to raise the profile and as stated above our museum already charges admission fees so no room for manoeuvre there. The folk museum also is part of the Highland Highlife network and therefore might have more chance of survival simply because of that. Of course it’s about real places and people and people’s jobs, including the folk museum cat perhaps, and it is tragic that one community’s gain might be another’s loss. Folk in Newtonmore could equally point to our swimming pool or library and the amount of public cash those facilities receive. Just illustrations of how complex the background to all the things we take for granted are when it comes to consideration of what must go. Who indeed would want to be a councillor and sign off the savage cuts that must come?

However, it is not to be forgotten too that there are those in Nairn who vehemently maintain that we don’t get our equitable share of local government resources anyway. If anyone has any figures about how much comes out of Nairn in terms of Council Tax and how much gets spent here pro rata they might be perhaps illuminating. It would be a place that Councillors would probably not want to go though as that kind of analysis might rock the raison d'etre of the Highland Council to the core if it were available. Whatever the reality of the fair share question it is unjust to this observer that communities have to face a one size fits all cuts regime imposed by a central authority. Would it not be better for the consultation to be devolved to local level and then we could decide ourselves what harm we wish to impose upon ourselves and where? Take the example in the survey of parking charges for every car park with over 20 spaces in the Highlands. Here in Nairn we don’t have any parking charges and with that many see an economic gain out of that for the town with tourists and locals coming in for shopping without having to pay for a parking space. The reality will be that those taking the survey elsewhere who have to pay charges already might be very inclined to vote for us to be inflicted with them too. 

As far as local government provision in the Highlands goes then a nightmare time is just around the corner as councillors sharpen the knives for what they are going to vote to sign off and the harm that will inflict on the Highlands.  

River CC to take on responsibility for Castle Lane Square information Board

River Community Council agreed on Wednesday night to take responsibility for the information board that was installed in Castle Lane Square over 2 months ago and has remained barren of information since.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

50% funding cut for Nairn Community and Arts Centre coming down the tracks over the next few years?

Here on the Gurn we published a couple of posts earlier this week about some of the potential impacts from the outcome of the Highland Council’s austerity budget survey consultation. These impacts will be massive. Previous Gurn posts on potential car parking charges in Nairn here and what might happen to public toilets here plus cuts to flower beds etc, here. It has also emerged that there is a major threat to funding of our Community and Arts Centre coming down the tracks and this became very clear last night at the regular meeting of River Community Council in the URC hall.

Highland Councillor Liz MacDonald was present and commented on part of her organisation’s budget cuts consultation survey. She said: “On question 4 it’s about reducing funding to Highlife Highland to some of the larger grants and one of them that falls within that is our Nairn Arts and Community Centre..”

Liz was interrupted by Stephanie Whittaker who interjected with: “and the Library and the Swimming Pool?”

Liz resumed, “Well, that’s on a different question but question 4 is particularly relevant for Nairn Community Centre. It’s one of the larger outside bodies that receives grants. And I think the proposal is to reduce it by 10% over the next two years and then have a 50% cut in the budget overall. I think there is 714,000 in that budget. The intention is to cut it by 50% over the next few years. So I think if you are making a representation maybe just put in a word for the Community Centre and study that question 4 because it’s got a massive impact for our Community Centre and how it is funded in the future.”

Here is item four from the survey:
“4. Reprioritising grants for arts, sports and culture: £714,000

The Council provides around £1.5 million of funding to a range of organisations including independent museums, cultural organisations, sports groups, independent sports and leisure facilities, village halls and youth groups. The funding provided ranges from £500 per year to £150,000 per year. We propose to change how we fund these organisations, reducing the total budget by 50%, £714,000, and requiring all organisations to bid for funding. Bids will be assessed against new criteria which reflect the Council’s priorities. As an initial step towards this, all grants will be reduced by 10% over the first 2 years.”

Liz on Common Good £187K loss repayment aftermath - "Everything is in that report and if anyone wants to investigate further the information is there"

This article about discussion last night (12/11/14) at the River Community Council meeting in the URC hall is best read in conjunction with one posted beforehand entitled “£187K Common Good lease loss - Liz says members did ask questions in the past - report on fiasco will be in the public domain next week

After Liz finished her revealing, and possibly explosive, initial comments about the Common Good report Mike Henderson was quick off the mark, he said:

“If it is so simple to find out who they were why take them out in the first place. What are these officials trying to hide?”

Liz responded: “Everything is in that report and if anyone wants to investigate further the information is there.” 

Mike continued and reminisced about a meeting in the Courthouse: “I remember going up there with Tommy Hogg. I can’t remember who else was there in the Courthouse. There was a move afoot for the other CCs to get a foot in the door about the Common Good and we were told right at the start get your noses out of this and the councillors said “It’s in safe hands”. 

Liz came back: “Well I think the Councillors had asked the questions and we were given...” 

She was cut short by an intervention from Tommy Hogg, chairing the meeting, who said to Mike Henderson: “No you’re right enough there.”

Liz continued: “What we were told by William Gillfinnan was the legal advice we were given by Queen’s Counsel about the Council has the duty to administer the Common Good and I think that is why the Council have so quickly said we’re responsible for this because it had been questioned over the years.”

Tommy picked up his thread again: “He was adamant Liz, he was quite forceful actually, we were told to butt out.”

A little later in the debate Liz said: “There is a whole timetable there of what went wrong, how it happened and there are internal e-mails between officers about... flagging up the issue about there needing to be a rent review but it was never put to members and members had asked along the way at different times “How can we raise this rent for Parkdean and..”

Stephanie Whittaker then made an impassioned plea: “I think this shows there is a good case here for local people to be involved and on a board for the Common Good. It’s not fair to leave it to four local councillors and the rest of the Councillors in the Highland Region who don’t understand Nairn, who don’t come from Nairn and don’t care for it in the way we do.”

Simon Noble then had a question for Liz: “Can I ask about the decision to redact the names of the officers. I’m not making a plan to publicise peoples’ names, vilifying and all the rest of that. I think it is a really difficult situation for all concerned but can you tell us something about when the decision to redact the names was made and who was involved in that decision and how it was arrived at?”

Liz responded: “I was told yesterday from the Director of Finance, who has been extremely helpful in sorting out this mess, that the report was coming to the Audit and Scrutiny next week and I would assume it would have been done by the Chief Executive and the Directors to redact.”

“Is there any kind of explanation in the public arena about why the decision to redact was taken?” Added Simon.

Liz replied: “I don’t know why. I would imagine because that some of the folk are still employed by the Council.”

Simon Noble had a further contribution: “One of the difficulties about not knowing why is that it allows people to speculate that it’s about self-interest instead of sensitivity or whatever it might be because one can imagine...” 

Liz quickly said: “Well it is a very detailed report.”

Veteran, and elder stateswoman of River CC, Jeanne Tolmie then said: It will be very interesting to see this detailed report at last.”

Liz concluded: “We’ve now got files that we can actually go and see what is happening there. Before everything was held centrally.”

Madainn mhath Inbhir Narann - Good morning Nairn

Agus abair thusa gu bheil coltas sèimh air cuisean a-rithist. And you could certainly say that things are looking mild again. 

Hats off to B Mac though who really got the image of this Nairn sunrise, you can see his stunning picture here on twitter. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

£187K Common Good lease loss - Liz says members did ask questions in the past - report on fiasco will be in the public domain next week

Recently the Highland Council put up the white flag and paid Nairn Common Good fund back 187K for losses incurred from failure to raise the caravan site rental at regularly agreed intervals in line with inflation. A report for the chief executive on the background to the sad saga was not in the public domain at the time when the repayment decision was made at the full council however. Tonight at River CC’s regular meeting, the Area Leader, Liz was present and made a statement that gripped the attention of Community Council members and those on the public benches alike. She said:

“I just wanted to say something about the Common Good because there’s obviously been quite a lot about that in the papers recently. In fairness to previous members that have been on the committee and the area committee in the Nairn ward, we had raised it several times about increasing the rent at Parkdean and it had been challenged a few times: in 2001, 2003 and 2005 by local members to get the rent increased and investigated during different periods of signing the lease or changing the lease and we had a big, in 2005, a big inventory of Common Good assets and to look at look at the market value and rents for all the...the rent levels for all our... especially commercial lets and that was Parkdean which was the main commercial let at the time.

So in fairness to other members I think it is worth mentioning that and the report that was done for Steve Barron will be going to the Audit and Scrutiny committee next week and that will be the full report. It has got the names redacted out of the officers that have been involved in it but I have done a bit of investigating myself because I thought “well that’s not true”, we had asked questions about the rent and why wasn’t it going up and what could we do to increase it.  So it’s all in there and it is going to the audit and scrutiny next week and it’s easy enough to see who the officers were if you just go to the minutes and you can see who was involved at that time. It’s got proposed amendments to the lease in 2001 and who the officers were that were delegated to deal with that.”

Here on the Gurn we had previously called for this report to be made public (and had in fact submitted a Freedom of Information Request immediately after the Council meeting)  and are delighted that the so far secret report will enter the public domain next week. Obviously it will be a very well read and scrutinised document when it does make its debut and goodness knows what implications might flow from it. More tomorrow on the immediate response from River CC members to Liz’s dynamite revelations. 

Previous articles:

Political times they are a changing? Scottish Socialist Party to organise branch in Nairn

Jonny Gould's Soccermongery "Another trip to Nairn County shows what football's about" - a must read piece by the soccer broadacster

The Sky News broadcaster, Wee County fan, and soccer pundit Jonny Gould really catches the atmosphere of Station Park  in his piece here "Another trip to Nairn County shows what football's about". 

To this observer he also distils onto his digital pages what our community is all about, the  bond between the club and the community over the last hundred years is well documented in the book of the club's history by Donald Wilson, Bill Logan and Graeme Macleod - an ideal Christmas gift by the way if you know anyone who hasn't seen a copy yet.  Jonny just about puts the essence of that connection into words. 

Give yourself a treat and read Jonny's impressions of his visit to Nairn and Station Park. 

Nairn Red Cross Shop ready to open - pictures

The ladies at Curves gym have been sourcing and saving up stock for the Red Cross shop for some time and today (Weds 12th) they were treated to a preview of a remarkably fitted out shop with a large range of merchandise that will undoubtedly be a major asset to the High Street. The Curves girls are in there from 12- 2 p.m and after that, although the shop is officially open tomorrow, the Gurn understands that the premises will be open to the public for a wee while today too. 

Below is a wee slide show of the interior of the shop. Individual images can be seen here.  Full screen slideshow here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Don't fancy volunteering for the cludgies - never mind more help might be needed in the flower beds?

Highland Council's austerity budget consultation item 12 states:

"The Council currently spends £367,000 growing its own flowers in nurseries and also plants and maintains flower beds in public spaces across Highland. Some communities in Highland have successfully been maintaining flower beds and communal areas to a good standard for many years with financial assistance from ward discretionary funds, common good funds etc. 

We are keen to encourage this more widely. If community groups were to take over the Council’s floral displays and plant nurseries all over Highland, we would save around £367,000 per year. If groups are not able to take on these flower beds then we propose to resurface these areas (grass, bark etc.) to cut back on maintenance. 
What difference would this change make?"

 You can see the consultation questions here and two previous Gurn articles if you scroll down the page. 

Jumble sales, meetings, etc no more if planning application to turn Rosebank Hall into dwelling succeeds?

A very interesting application on the Highland Council's e-planning site for the Rosebank Hall. You can browse the plans here. 

Any community groups fancy taking over the local public toilets?

In their austerity budget consultation survey the Highland Council state in item 7:

"The Council currently spends £1.16 million on running and cleaning 127 public toilets across Highland. 28 of these are run well by community groups or businesses supported by the Council through the Highland Comfort Grant Scheme. If community groups or businesses were to take over the running of some of the remaining toilets, this could save the Council up to £575,000. There may be some other grant schemes that could support communities to do this as well. 
We intend to encourage community groups or businesses to take over the running of some of the toilets in Highland. If communities cannot take on the running of their toilets the Council would need to consider closing some of these facilities. 

If some of these facilities were to close, what difference would this change make?"

In an earlier post we highlighted a question in the survey which could lead to parking charges in Nairn. If anyone is in any doubt that crunch time is just around the corner then they should go and have a look at the questions in the survey themselves - a lot is going to change soon, the Highland Council budget consultation survey is available here.

Highland Council Budget Survey - Could mean charges for Nairn car parks?

Thanks to the regular reader who sent us a link to the survey pages. The survey is open until the 14th of November

Here's question 18b on the Highland Council Budget Survey:

"18 (b) We are proposing that we consider charging for any car park in Highland that has more than 20 spaces. The income that could be generated would be around £230,000 per year.  What difference would this change make?"

You then get a choice of options to tick on two levels, personal family impact and that to the community. Nairn businesses have often rallied over the threat to the town centre from potential parking charges and there have been campaigns in the past every time the spectre of car parking returned but could this go through on the nod if enough Highland residents elswhere are in favour when they complete the survey? Let's face it anyone being charged already is very likely to vote for others not currently being charged to suffer the same fate. 

The cuts are certainly going to go into the bone this time round. You can see the survey here by clicking on the "Complete our survey" link at the bottom of this Highland Council page. 

Just another thought here - would anyone parking on the Links carpark or down at the Maggot or the Harbour have to pay as well? All these sites have over 20 parking spaces.