THERE is cross party opposition among Arbroath councillors to a move proposed by Angus Council officials whereby Arbroath Library would be removed from Common Good ownership and transferred to the local authority’s general fund.
In our story in last week’s paper, Councillor Bob Spink, a champion of Arbroath Common Good Fund, revealed that it would remove an asset of £868,000 and an annual income of £25,000 from the ownership of the people of Arbroath.
SNP councillor Alex King is in agreement with his Independent colleague that the transfer, part of a wider look at Common Good assets, should not be allowed to happen.
He commented this week: “Bob Spink is absolutely right to flag up the probable move by the administration of Angus Council to try to plunder the Arbroath Common Good Fund by removing Arbroath Library from its list of assets.
“This outrageous proposal has arisen from officer-led reviews of Arbroath Common Good assets and the use currently made by Angus Council of both Common Good buildings and other buildings in Arbroath.
“These reviews were aimed at making the best use possible of buildings which are owned by Angus Council.”
Councillor King went on: “The objective was to identify buildings which are no longer needed by the council with a view to selling them and also to try to stop them using some expensive, leased buildings. These reviews appear to have lost their way with this proposal to transfer the Arbroath Library to Angus Council from the Arbroath Common Good.
“As Councillor Spink points out, the Arbroath Library building was acquired by David Corsar and gifted to the Burgh of Arbroath for use as a library and art gallery.
“This is a remarkably similar situation to the Webster Memorial Theatre building, which was gifted to the town by the Webster family as a public hall, and is still listed as an asset of the Arbroath Common Good.”
Councillor King asked the question: “Will the next move by the Angus Alliance be to take the ‘Webster’ out of the Common Good and into the maw of Angus Council?”
He continued: “The comments Bob makes about how Common Good assets should be identified seems eminently sensible to me and if applied as a general rule would avoid the sort of problem now arising over differing perceptions as to ownership of assets gifted to the council.
“I will be supporting Councillor Spink in this matter and I will be watching closely to see how the four Angus Alliance councillors, who represent Arbroath wards, vote when this comes up for decision.
“Will they vote to support both the Arbroath Common Good and the best interests of the people of Arbroath or will they follow the Angus Alliance whip and meekly toe the line to vote ownership of Arbroath Library into the hands of Angus Council?”
Councillor Peter Nield says he wants to see the report being prepared by council officers after which he will speak to Councillor Bob Spink to agree on a way forward.
He said: “Arbroath Public Library has always been on the Common Good list. There have been many debates about what is Common Good property and what isn’t but in this instance I believe that local members should put their heads together to make a case against the transfer.
“I am interested in what Councillor Spink has to say and I think it is right that he should take the lead in this matter.”
And fellow Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Donald Morrison also supported Councillor Spink’s comments which appeared in last week’s Arbroath Herald.
He stated: “Local councillors met with officials to discuss the Common Good assets a couple of months ago and it was during this meeting that concerns were raised to the council’s suggestions the library could be outwith the Common Good remit.
“All the councillors present were assured further investigations would be made and left with the impression another meeting between officers and councillors would take place before any final report went before committee.”
He continued: “Arbroath residents are rightly very protective of the Burgh’s Common Good and will be angered if there is a possible threat to transfer one of its major assets into the council’s ownership.
“With the recent closures of four rural libraries, including those in Friockheim and Letham, public suspicions on the future of the burgh library could rise if it were to be transferred out of the Common Good.”