Thursday, June 17, 2010

The West CC highlighting Nairn Common Good Fund fears

There was debate at the West Community Council meeting about Nairn Common Good Fund. Brian Stewart and other members were concerned that a policy document recently approved by the Highland Council Resources committee might cause some long term problems for the town’s fund. Graham Vine perhaps summed up the situation perfectly when he said the following during the debate:

‘At the moment Nairn Common Good Fund maybe hasn’t got enough money worth nicking. But as and when, if ever, Sandown is sold for real money then there will be real money there and we don’t want Highland Council playing with it.’

A statement that had Councillor Laurie Fraser affirming, ‘No, we do not want that happening, no.’
Earlier Brian Stewart had outlined how the Housing Expo in Inverness had received Inverness Common Good money and he found this worrying, he said:
‘The money that the Highland Council has just decided to grant to this questionable event is Inverness Common Good Fund money. Now the Highland Council controls Nairn’s Common Good Fund just as they control Inverness’s. It this is an example of how the Highland council manages public money, particularly Common Good Funds, then we here in Nairn have reason to be concerned too. Secondly that’s the point of substance, the point of procedure is this, this was voted through by the relevant committee of Highland Council by 15 to 2. I don’t know which if any of our elected members were there and whether if they were they voted in favour of it but it concerns me seriously that money which is common good money should be voted on an exercise like this at a time like this without apparently very much consideration of the interests and the preferences and the views of these residents to whom the Common Good Fund belongs. So I think this is an important point simply because it is illustrative who knows what else in the way of spending decisions and grants of money are being made but it is symptomatic in my view of an approach in terms of Highland Council budgeting at least from where we look at it deeply disturbing.’
Laurie pointed out that this had been a decision of the Inverness City committee as it was an Inverness Common Good issue. Brian then went on to detail some of the points that concerned him in the Common Good Funds Policy Document. He stated that for payments of over £10,000 the decision would go to the Highland Council Resource committee, coupled with this and also,perhaps the biggest of his concerns, section 8 of that document and he quoted the following
‘Highland Council has wide discretion over common good so long as it is applied for the benefit of the community in such a manner as using reasonable judgement they think proper and having regard to the interests of the inhabitants of the former burgh.’
To Brian this was a major danger and he stated:
‘Don’t need to be a lawyer to see that that is a loophole wide enough to drive a truck through. It effectively gives Highland Council carte blanche to spend Common Good money in any way they chose without any consultation as long as they are able to say ‘we have had regard for the interests of the local community.’

Laurie made some further comments but suggested that the West Council write to William Gillfinnan (giving Laurie a copy) as there would be an opportunity for further review in six months time.

There we have a few details from the debate Gurnites, perhaps there will be more in the Nairnshire but we hope to have given you a flavour of the quality of debate, backed by considerable research that the unpaid volunteer watchdogs at the West lay on once a month in the community centre.
Granted there is a gentleman’s agreement to allow the local members to decide what happens to local funds but we are moving into troubled times ahead and who knows what might happen at Highland Council. There is no guarantee it will stay like that forever. The cuts could bring a period of turmoil, the ruling administration has weathered a few problems but will it survive the full term and if it doesn’t what will take its place? Another regime that might cast envious eyes on a Nairn Common Good Fund that one day might have been topped up from Sandown? If our local members were to be given a veto, for example, on any move from the resources committee or others to spend Nairn money then perhaps the Brian Stewart and his West colleagues and, we imagine, quite a few more folk in Nairn would have their fears allayed. The community has to keep its eye on the ball on this one.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Common Good Land in Scotland - A Review and Critique by Andy Wightman & James Perman (Andy Wightman is an independent writer and researcher. James Perman is a Chartered Accountant from Largs.) Document available at www.scottishcommons.org/docs/commongood_v3.pdf.
This document covers 72 pages, but is well worth reading. The preface states - The report has been researched and written at the authors’ own expense with no external funding and it has therefore not been possible to follow-up on the many lines of enquiry which have presented themselves or to provide details of the growing number of interesting cases and issues uncovered in the course of this research. That statement is quite disturbing when you go on to read at www.scottishcommons.org/las/highland.htm the information supplied by Highland Council in 2005. Further comment 'Only in Inverness is there any value ascribed to fixed assets. In other words the land assets notified to me in Dornoch, Nairn, Tain, Fortrose, Rosemarkie and Dingwall does not appear in the accounts'.

Graisg said...

The document you quote states the situation in 2005, I believe since then there has been a fair amount of work in this direction. I remember Mr Gilfinnan indicating this at recent Ward Forum meetings.

growtosow said...

does this mean some sort of cooking? common good fund is for the folk of nairn and should be looked after this is something that should be watched with great care. as its not just for this generation but those too come.

Duncan said...

Prior to 1975, Common Good funds were the responsibility of each individual burgh. After local government reorganisation in 1975 their responsibility fell on the district councils. This was OK as it was much the same officers and councillors who were dealing with them. Highland Regional Council, by the way, had no Common Good funds.
After the 1996 local government reorganisation, districts and regions were abolished and the mighty Highland Council took over all the Common Good funds as well as housing, refuse collection, etc. These were things the old regional council knew nothing about. It was a steep learning curve then and they're still learning now. Just keep an eye on the funds and ensure they are spent wisely and for the local people. We don't want local Common Good money going to private businesses as is happening with the Inverness Common Good fund.

growtosow said...

well put duncan and i could not agree with you more with regards too the common good fund. the money should stay in nairn for our townsfolk and with a lot of thought on how it is used.