Talk once again of the Common Good Fund at the joint meeting of the West and Suburban Community Councils last night in Nairn Academy. In the hot seat for Highland Council was Colin MacAulay (the only one of our four local authority councillors present). The brickbats were polite but still laced with anger and condemnatory. Colin enjoys the luxury of being relatively new to the job, unlike Liz or Laurie whose association with Common Good affairs goes back some time now so he does have that to give him a shield from the most stinging complaints. He takes it all, admits the failures, and occasionally comes back with comments about how it might look in the future.
The community councillors present want more action though and they want it quickly. They point to the greater freedom that the Inverness Common Good Fund enjoys where only the Inverness Councillors have control unlike Nairn where all the Highland Council’s 80 members are trustees. They point too to the seven Common Good funds that became charities in 1975 when a change in local government organisation came along. Obviously some communities had the foresight to set up an apparatus that would avoid the sort of situation we find ourselves in in Nairn today. The watchdogs also want to see proper accountability and want to know with crystal clear precision where the responsibility for failure lies. There was talk of a lack of public confidence etc. It is all very familiar stuff for those who have been serious students of these affairs for some time. It could perhaps have been a meeting from 10 or 15 years ago with just the latest revelation added onto the heap of discontent and anger from the powerless ranks of the community councillors and members of the public present. The discussion continued and amongst the eloquent and articulate condemnations were sprinkled the like of “cock-up”, “asleep on the job”; the desire for recompense for the recent failure which meant a six figure sum was lost to the Common Good was also aired.
Colin was quizzed as to whether he would be willing to propose some sort of motion to the Council that Nairn Common Good Fund be given more freedom and input from the local community. He spoke of what had to be done at this point of time but was saved from being pressed too deeply on the matter by John Mackie who suggested this was a discussion to be had between the joint community councils and the four Highland Councillors at another meeting.
More to come soon? After the summer perhaps, when yet another report goes to the area committee in September? Ultimately pressure will be focussed on our two Highland Councillors who are senior members of the Glenurquhart Road ruling administration (Liz and Colin) to see if they will put forward some proposal to the full Council to change the arrangements for Nairn Common Good Fund. Will they go that far or would that be too much of a boat-rocking exercise? Ultimately it may all be flavoured by the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Community Empowerment bill that may give some instruction to local authorities on how to behave towards communities whose Common Good Funds they administer.