Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sheena Baker's questions from Last Night's Nairnshire Partnership meeting

The Gurn has stated before that in our opinion Sheena is one of the best councillors we never had, if by magic we were to be tomorrow allowed 5 councillors instead of 4 then she should be press-ganged immediately. Hopefully folk of her calibre may show an interest of serving on the future Royal Burgh Of Nairn Community Council once we eventually have that organisation established
Sheena returned to her mission of raising awareness of loans and other expenses incurred against the Common Good Fund last night. Her task is made a lot easier now as the Deveron Homes plan for Sandown is no longer a 'live' application and councillors and officials are at more liberty to discuss the issue. The loan from Highland Council to pay for the Community Centre was over £2, 000,000 and then there is the issue of the payment to the farmer etc to free Sandown for development, that is around £700,000. It did emerge that no interest is being charged by the council for this loan at the present but it was admitted that this might not be the case in the future.
Here are the questions she asked and she did preface them with the statement that she wasn't expecting immediate answers. It was instructive to note that William Gilfinnan did state that the Council were seeking legal advice on some of them already. Now on to Sheena's questions. Please note that if you wish to make comments please try and be constructive on this issue rather than get into the blame game. There will probably be enough time for that when, as it seems highly likely, the Sandown issue goes to a public inquiry and another bonanza for the lawyers begins.
' New points

With the application now no longer “a live local planning application” for our 4 Councillors as it has been passed to the Reporter and ultimately the Scottish Exec, are there likely to be costs from the process of the appeal being set against the loan/ Common good Fund/asset?

If the appeal by Deveron fails is there anything in the contract that states they would get some form of compensation/ golden goodbye presumably to go towards costs incurred by them from the onset of the application. I understand there may be. Can this be thoroughly checked and as well as checking it ascertain who would actually be liable to pay it – THC or the Common Good Fund?

The original contract seems to have been for 300 + houses, as Deveron increased that to 500+ and if the appeal fails was the original contract not then broken by Deveron when their planning application greatly exceeded the agreed number of homes? If the answer to that is yes then presumably there would be no right to compensation.

All these questions arise as the contract for the sale of a common good asset has been kept secret and, it is my opinion, it is now time for “the residents of Nairn” to start seeing some transparency regarding the contract.

Moving on

Have the 4 Trustees seen and fully read the contract between Deveron and THC/Whois the legal second party? Presumably under the Freedom of Information Act if someone asked for a copy they would get it or would it be time barred?

I am concerned that the Trustees might personally be liable if this all goes pear shaped. Have they ascertained that the Indemnity insurance covering them as Councillors also cover the wider remit of being trustees?

More importantly as our 4 Councillors are wearing 2 hats – one as a paid HC councillor and one as a Trustee of the Common Good, there could be a perception of conflict of interest when acting as Trustee. The small matter of allegiance comes to mind, if there was a conflict which side would they support?

Personally I feel they should seriously consider including other “trustees” from the wider community and also include one or two volunteer Professionals with legal and accountancy backgrounds as it’s clear from the various blogs and the media that the present representation is not acceptable to many in the local community and, in my view, needs to be swiftly revisited.

Sheena Baker

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