Thursday, October 30, 2014

Highland Council's Nairn Common Good 14 year blunder - £187K cash back - what Michael said

When he got his turn in the Glenurquhart Road chamber earlier today Cllr Michael Green said:

"I’ve got three points to make. The first point, I’d like to put on record my appreciation to the way that Highland Council has addressed this difficult issue and especially I’d like to thank Derek Yule and David Hass, they have worked through, they have established the facts and put forward what I think is an honourable and equitable proposal to recompense the Nairn Common Good Fund so I would just like to make that clear that we are very appreciative of the efforts that you guys have put up. 

The second point I’d like to make and there’s only three so bear with me. And some may disagree with this, it’s what I view, this is a serious aspect here, is a failure of oversight and governance by longstanding and existing members of the Council. These are Nairn trustees, there’s some have retired, some are, as I say current members. When I was first elected in 2012 one of the first things I did was to ask our then full time manager, Louise Clark, what were the terms and conditions surrounding the Parkdean lease. A hundred year lease with reviews every seven years in line with RPI and the next review is due in November 2013. [...] Late in 2013 it was not the 10 to fifteen percent uplift I was expecting but a near doubling of the current Parkdean rental. Having been involved with commercial property both as owner and letting I knew exactly what had happened. Several rent reviews had been missed. We’re very well trained here at the Highland Council it’s been one of the more pleasant aspects of the job. We’re very well trained, we’re very well trained in governance. We know what best practice is, we know what to expect – that’s assuming that you turn up for the training. However, the Parkdean lease is our main source of income. It dwarfs everything else, it’s the one thing that dominates the Common Good. I’m not expecting existing councillors over the years to go in for detailed forensic analysis of individual leases although that would be nice but I would expected a degree of curiosity as to why over a period of 14 years our prime source of income had not increased. 

Unfortunately for Nairn Common Good fund and for the citizens on the Highlands who have to pay up – Nairn Common Good is not losing out for this and that’s Highland Council doing the honourable thing by recompensing the Common Good – we are not losing out but the citizens of the Highlands are going to have to foot the bill for the 187,000. That’s the real downside of this.

The third and last point, you will be glad to hear, I’ve retitled “Pandora’s Box”. The reason I’ve put this, I don’t think – well – I likened the old relationship between the Highland Council and the Common Good fund, I used the family analogy that it was an orphan with the role of the Highland Council as a foster parent with Nairn Common Good fund as an orphan. The foster parent is doing just enough to keep it out of the clutches of the authorities who I would see in the role of Audit Scotland. Currently things have improved dramatically, there’s far greater reporting, we are getting monitoring reports. It’s not ideal but it is a step forward in the right direction. [...] However, to get confidence and this is an important point, to get confidence back in the Nairn Common Good fund and to get folk to ultimately make bequests, to leave houses, to actually see the Common Good fund as a transformational vehicle that can build houses, affordable houses for people; that can buy shops; that could take shops on the High Street and let them out to people from Nairn. It can be a vehicle for change. To get there we need a new arrangement. 

And when I say Pandora’s Box, what I mean is we need to look at a new arrangement empowering communities. It’s getting the Community Councils, it’s getting a greater voice for Nairn people in the role of their Common Good as in the life of the town. [...] That we form some sort of forum, a new relationship whereby there is a way that Community Councils and individuals can express their wishes for the Common Good. 

Michael then tried to continue but was cut short by Jimmy Gray who told Michael he had already had three points. Realising his time was up Michael quipped: “We’ll take the cash!”

1 comment:

take with one hand said...

The cash is welcome but don't we still owe HC a couple of quid for our not so new community and arts centre?