Councillor makes appeal for calm on Angus Common Good funds

A call for calm has been made in the row over the administration of Angus Common Good funds

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After fears were raised that Arbroath Library might become the first victim of a review which could lead to it being transferred to the council’s general account, finance spokesman Councillor Mark Salmond gave an assurance that burgh common good funds will remain.

But there was no confirmation that assets within burgh funds, such as libraries facilities,

are guaranteed to stay there under the terms of any review recommendations and future options will not be revealed until later this month.

Angus independent Bob Spink sparked the row with a hands-off warning to officials over the prospect of Arbroath Library being transferred out of the town common good fund.

Mr Spink said any change that would affect the library’s status as a gift to the burgh and its residents would be the equivalent of “corporate theft”.

Last night Mr Salmond said a common good review had been set up to clear up grey areas of administration and pulling together the burgh funds was not on the cards.

“I can give burghs a categorical assurance that a single common good fund for Angus is not being considered,” he said. “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.”

On the current review and audit of common goods funds, Mr 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.

“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.”

Mr Salmond said the council would consider a report on the Arbroath Common Good Fund on September 15.

Arbroath Library

However, a council spokesman could not confirm if the completed report made any specific recommendations for Arbroath Library.

“The audits are being done alphabetically. Arbroath’s fund is the first to be done and that has now been completed,” said Mr Salmond.

“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.”

Mr Salmond urged people to wait to see the full findings before pre-judging the outcome. “There is still a lot of discussion to be had about each fund,” he said.

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