ARBROATH East and Lunan councillor Bob Spink is vehemently opposed to a move by Angus Council to transfer ownership of Arbroath Library building from the Common Good Fund to the local authority’s general fund.
He said it would remove an asset with a value of £868,000 and an annual income of £25,000 from the ownership of the people of Arbroath to ownership of Angus Council.
He intends to fight the proposal and is seeking support from his local council colleagues.
Councillor Spink told the Herald: “I have been aware for some time of the intention of Angus Council through the director of corporate services acting upon a review of the administration of the Common Good funds (CG) of the Angus burghs, to transfer the Common Good asset of the Arbroath Library to the council’s general fund.
“This act would, if successful, result in not only the corporate theft in my opinion of an asset which has been in the ownership of the Common Good for at least 50 years and most likely ever since it was gifted to the burgh of Arbroath, but deprive the Common Good Fund of the revenue from the library paid by the council amounting to £25,000 per annum. The asset itself has a value of £868,000.”
He went on: “In its simplest form this would mean that if a decision was taken to close the library and sell the asset, the Angus Council General fund would benefit to the tune of £868,000. As it stands that sum would fall to the Common Good fund to be used elsewhere for the good of the Arbroath community.”
Councillor Spink explained: “The director claims that any property which was ‘acquired’ by the council for a statutory purpose, in this case the Libraries Consolidation (Scotland) Act 1887, should be the property of the Angus Council General Fund and not the Common Good fund as it has been for so long. He is to put a report to full council on September 15 recommending that this be done. I will vehemently oppose this recommendation and urge my Arbroath colleagues across party to support me.
“As for the other burghs with Common Good funds, I ask them to look over their shoulders, for the focus on Arbroath is simply an alphabetic one and their turn will come so let us nip this in the bud now.”
Councillor Spink stated that the Arbroath Library and Picture Gallery was gifted to the burgh of Arbroath in 1898 by David Corsar for the behoof of the community and he utterly refutes the claim that it was ‘acquired’ by the council. Additionally, a sum of £1,000 was donated by Andrew Carnegie to the same end.
He continued: “Acquired by definition infers an action by the local authority to gain something, a positive action in other words. Since the building was gifted by a benefactor the action was by the donor, not the council who as recipient did not perform any action to gain the asset other than accept it.
“Further, the gift was to the people of Arbroath and never intended in my opinion to be subsumed into the wider community of Angus.
“In usual council long-winded waffle it appears to me a mighty fuss is being made over what could be a straightforward issue. If the objective is to simplify and separate Common Good from local authority assets then I make a suggestion.
“Anything which has been donated, gifted, or presented to any burgh should be contained within the Common Good of that burgh. Anything which has been acquired utilising taxpayers’ money including government grants of any kind, should be contained within the General Fund of that burgh. This could apply to any burgh retrospectively or for the future.
“Burghs fortunate enough to have common good funds should be aware that these funds are the property of the citizens of those burghs and through the revenue generated through leasing these assets to Angus Council can do much within the relevant area e.g., in Arbroath: Keptie Pond improvements, Webster Memorial Theatre, Christmas lights to name a few, and which would not have been possible without the benefit of Common Good funds.”
Councillor Spink concluded: “I was elected to look after the interests of the Arbroath public to the best of my ability, and this is my duty at its most basic. I cannot say how strongly I feel that we should protect and value our Common Good inheritance.
“To do otherwise betrays the good intentions of benefactors long gone and would be a gross disservice to the citizens of Arbroath and I urge all concerned parties to support me openly so we may demonstrate we will tolerate no interference with our Common Good inheritance.”