Thursday, October 30, 2014

Highland Council's Nairn Common Good 14 year admin disaster - £187K cash back - what Liz said

Jimmy Gray introduced the item which detailed the Highland Council’s failure and responsibility to pay back cash lost to the fund and then said : “Can we just agree that members?” It wasn’t to be though as Councillors wanted to speak. 

Liz was first up after an official spoke she said: “I think one of the really positive things of having the Area Committee is that we have been able to discuss this matter over the period of the last year at three or four area committees that we’ve had. I think in the past there has been lack of scrutiny and there has been suspicion from the public about how the Common Good funds were being administered. So having the area committee has meant that we have been much more transparent and everything has been done openly. I would definitely like to thank the members of the Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey area committee for their patience because lots of sensitive reports have been coming forward and Nairn members in particular were under significant pressure for more information and I’m grateful for their support so the issue was given time and it could be dealt with properly, investigated and that proposals were given the chance to be worked at to the stage that we are at today. 

Our previous ward manager Louise Clark had identified the problem and our present ward manager Liz Cowie and her assistant Lyn Maclennan have been working very hard to sort out the matter and develop practices and procedures to ensure Nairn Common Good has proper record keeping and robust management and scrutiny going forward. Over the year there has been substantial support from Council officers considering the Common Good. From the Chief Exec to the finance, legal, audit and Inverness City manager and I would like to thank them all for their endeavours. It has taken a long time and a massive amount of effort to get us to this point. [...] Today we have to decide which option we are going to support for cash restitution and all the Nairn members support option 1. As Derek mentioned the financial implications for both options are the same for the Council and I would like to propose that we opt for option 1 because this would bring the problem to an end, draw a line under it and we can hopefully move on with more positive management of Nairn Common Good. So I hope we can unanimously agree this proposal and we all have a duty to administer the Common Good funds and there have been significant improvements in the way we carry out this duty in the last year and moving forward it should be much more positive.

1 comment:

common man said...

This was a major administrative and management failure and a clear lack of proper oversight.

But you would hardly think so from this Councillor's fulsome remarks about positive things, her references to transparency, her back-slapping congratulation of the the area committee, and her praising of supportive officials. Anyone might think she was celebrating a triumph of good governance, rather than acknowledging an appalling shambles.

All very well to call for drawing a line and moving on. But where is the explanation? Where is the investigation-report? Where is the accountability? Where does responsibility lie? And what about the other questionable aspects of the Common Good management (like the fishing rights, which Liz MacDonald herself has spoken about)?

It's right that the Council should repay the Nairn Common Good. But how can anyone have faith in the Council's competence when all it does is write a cheque (more of our ratepayers' money), deliver a whitewash, and pat itself on the back?

The one change that is really essential, greater local engagement and control, is not even mentioned. Michael Green's call for reform seems to be totally ignored.