Reassurance over common good funds

THE VARIOUS burghs in Angus are being reassured that Angus Council does not plan to set up a single combined common good fund for Angus.

An ongoing review of common good assets could lead to ownerships of Arbroath Public Library, which was gifted to the town and belongs to the Common Good Fund, being transferred to Angus Council’s general fund.

Local councillors have indicated their opposition to such a move.

But Angus Council’s finance spokesperson, Councillor Mark Salmond, stated this week: “I can give burghs a categorical assurance that a single common good fund for Angus is not being considered.

“Common good funds are legally protected – they cannot be used for any other purpose than that which they were set up for. So Angus communities can rest assured that the individual funds are burgh funds and they will stay that way, making a valuable contribution to their burgh.”

Speaking about the current review and audit of common goods funds, councillor Salmond said: “Communities with common good funds had been calling for a full audit and review of the funds; the council supported that and is now in the process of carrying out a burgh by burgh review.

“The purpose of the review - the first for several years - is to clarify some of the more ambiguous areas, such as the nature of the land, in accordance with the most up to date Common Good Law.

“The complex history and circumstance of every common good fund can make the administration of them no easy task for councils and we knew when we started the audit that the findings would create considerable discussion and in some cases disagreement in burghs.”

He continued: “That’s why we said we would be sharing the outcome of each burgh audit with the local community to give people the chance to examine our findings and submit any evidence they may have to either support or contest them.”

Councillor Salmond said a report on the Arbroath Common Good Fund would be considered by the council on September 15.

He went on: “The audits are being done alphabetically. Arbroath’s fund is the first to be done and that has now been completed. The findings will be reported at the council meeting next month when members will be asked to approve the consultation arrangements that will give the community the opportunity to scrutinise our findings and submit any additional evidence they may have or be aware of.

“Only when all of that is completed will the council make any decisions about any changes to the Arbroath Common Good Fund. That same process will be followed for each burgh as the audits are carried out.”

Councillor Salmond finished by urging people to wait to see the full findings before pre-judging the outcome, saying: “There is still a lot of discussion to be had about each fund.”

Councillor Bob Spink stated: “It is good to have the reassurance from Councillor Salmond that a single common good fund for the Angus burghs is not being considered and this is an unnecessary statement for I agree with him that is not the case at the moment, for surely absolute uproar would ensue if this were to be so.

“My particular stance, however, arises from a meeting in April at which I was present and Councillor Salmond was not, and a following e-mail from the director of corporate services to me, which says quite clearly that he is to recommend the alienation of the Arbroath Public Library from the Common Good Fund of Arbroath to the benefit of the council general fund claiming it should never have been there in the first place.

“I am completely focused on this issue alone at the moment and no amount of deliberation or consultation will convince me that this proposal is justified since the library was without any doubt a gift to the people of Arbroath by David Corsar in much the same way as the Webster Memorial Theatre was gifted by the Webster family, thus a Common Good asset.”

He continued: “The effect of losing the Arbroath Library would be a capital asset loss to the Arbroath Common Good of nearly £900,000 and a revenue loss of about £25,000 and this is unacceptable to me, most Arbroath councillors, and I am sure, the general public of Arbroath.

“I now wait to see the words brought forward by the director in his report to come to full council before deciding the best way forward for me. Councillor Salmond may use his soft words but beware the thin end of the wedge and let the public decide whether a threat exists or not.

“I wonder what Councillor Salmond’s reaction would have been had this been a Montrose asset in such danger!”