Row puts group’s role in doubt

THE FUTURE of Montrose Events’ involvement in the town’s Christmas Extravaganza could be in doubt due to a wrangle over a £400 bill from Angus Council.

And Mark Salmond, the group’s chairman, said he may have to consider his own position and possibly step down from Montrose Events entirely.

The row blew up after the council issued an invoice for more than £400 relating to a road closure order for last year’s High Street event.

Montrose Events secretary Tommy Stewart is refusing to pay the bill, saying he knew nothing about an increase in the charge for the order’s publication in the local press. The bill is higher than in previous years as the administration fee was raised to £300 plus VAT at last year’s council budget.

Mr Stewart feels the cost does not represent good value for money, especially as Montrose Events raised money over the course of the previous year to pay for staging the extravaganza.

Mr Salmond, however, who was the council’s finance convener when the measure was approved by all Angus councillors, is clear that the bill should be paid. A meeting of the Montrose Events committee will be called this week to discuss the issue.

Councillor Salmond said: “I’m fully supportive that the bill be paid and I’ve made this point to Mr Stewart. I’m calling a meeting of the committee this week for them to make a decision and while Mr Stewart has a position on this, Montrose Events as yet does not.

“I’ve a corporate responsibility to support a council policy and I, along with the other 29 councillors, agreed to this proposal and I will be proposing that it be paid.

“That said, it has brought home to me that maybe it’s inappropriate for me to be chairman of Montrose Events if it’s putting me in conflict with the council. The members will also discuss at the meeting Montrose Events’ involvement with the extravaganza.”

Councillor Salmond added that in this year’s budget, announced in February, a “funding pot” of around £40,000 was set up to help community groups meet such costs, but that applications could not be retrospective meaning Montrose Events has little alternative but to settle the bill.

A council spokeswoman this week said that charges had changed due to the “significant costs” incurred by the authority to undertake promotion of such traffic orders.

She said: “In previous years, applicants for temporary restriction orders were only charged for the cost of the statutory publication of the notice and a small additional admin charge.

“The difference in the charge arises from the different legislation relating to these orders. For events and roadworks related temporary restrictions lasting more than five days, an order must be published in the press.”