Convener’s assurance over common good funds

A “CATEGORICAL assurance” has been given that a combined fund for the county’s common good assets is not being considered by Angus Council.

Finance spokesman and local councillor Mark Salmond said that burgh common good funds are protected legally, preventing their use for any other purpose.

His comments followed concerns expressed recently by Arbroath councillor Bob Spink that, as a result of a continuing Angus-wide common good review, assets could be transferred from common good accounts to the council’s general fund.

Mr Spink was worried that burghs would be short-changed if some assets were transferred and the revenue centralised to be shared between towns without common good funds.

Mr Salmond this week said: “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.”

He also pointed out that the review and audit of the common good funds, announced in 2009, was in response to requests from communities.

He added: “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.”

The audits are being carried out alphabetically and Arbroath’s has now been completed. A reports on the findings will be considered by councillors on September 15 and subsequently put out for consultation.

Mr Salmond said: “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 also urged people to wait until the full findings are released before pre-judging the outcome.

He said: “There is still a lot of discussion to be had about each fund.”