It wasn't all sand and motorbikes at the Westies get-together on Wednesday night, there was some discussion in general about the Common Good fund before Michael made his fund-raising update.
He read out some paragraphs from a document he'd come across during his duties as an elected member. We'll reproduce them here and instantly you will get an idea of the dangerous legacy left by the Highland Council's Sandown adventure:
"28. A long term liability of £0.734 million has been included in the common good balance sheet for the costs of bringing land at Sandown (owned by Nairn Common good) to a saleable condition. The repayment of this amount to the council will be dependent on achieving a successful sale of the land.
29. In December 2010 the Council agreed to rescind, without penalty, the missives it signed with Deveron Homes Ltd over the development of the Sandown Lands after the company failed to get planning permission for a major housing development. As a result, the valuer has revalued the asset downwards from £15 million to £10 million. In the current economic climate the sale of this land is no longer certain, therefore the ability of Nairn common good to repay the outstanding liability is questionable in the short term. "
This observer would point to Forres where the citizens get a vote before any major development on Common Good Land, here we weren't asked. Thus the whole Sandown fiasco was a Highland Council adventure and they should pay the debt not the Nairn Common Good Fund. But that is just this humble citzen's opinion. We also have a debt for the Community Centre. That's about £2 million isn't it? How many other towns across Highland had to pay for their own community centre? Were we thrust into the Big Society long before the term had passed a politician's lips? Answers on a postcard please?
There was comparison at the meeting between the competent way the Inverness Common Good Fund is run and the way in the past that ours had been handled. Brian Stewart said:
" I think there is quite a feeling in town that, as we all know Nairn has a fairly substantial asset in the Common Good much of it fixed as capital, land and property and so on. After the meetings we had before the most recent elections with council officials, they were adamant that management of Nairn's common good fund should remain with the totality of Highland Council and council officials. In other words there was very strong reluctance to devolve or delegate any of the responsibility for policy making, of management of Nairn's Common Good downwards from Highland Council as such and that's all recorded and enshrined in policy documents the council has approved. I think the feeling that with a lot of us who are interested in the subject, in a way we've got common ground on this one Michael, is that there is a sense that in many ways, unlike the Inverness Common Good, which is very pro-actively managed and there are vigorous efforts by the committee to invest, generate income, look at ways of productively generating income. There's a feeling that for an awfully long time there's been much less of a pro-active approach to how Nairn's Common Good is managed. It's been very passive."
Colin said: "We've been subsumed into a different local authority, there's not anything mischievous or misleading. There's a history there of management that could have been better. Rest assured that Liz and I will do our damnedest to make sure..." Colin was then cut off by an interjection from a westie but gurnites will get his drift. He continued a minute or two later however,"I think there might have been opportunities, if you go back 40 years, 80 years, there's been previous councils in Nairn that could have done and didn't do and that's just the reality of where we are at. Whereas our friends further West managed their resource somewhat better."
Colin is right of course and this observer is certain that our voices will be heard better now that Liz and Colin are part of the Glenurquhart Road administration. We could look back and detail past mistakes but with Sandown we are literally still just looking over our shoulders at a more recent debacle.
Update: Liz tells the Gurn: Michael received the information from the Audit report which I shared with all Nairn members. There will be a report on this going to Highland Council on December 13th."