Doctor blasts common good fee

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A COMMON Good campaigner is taking his case to the Information Commissioner, writes Kenny Paterson.

Selkirk Community Council’s vice-chairman Dr Lindsay Neil has discovered through a Freedom of Information request that the town’s common good fund was charged £728 by Scottish Borders Council to finalise a £50 lease for Selkirk and District Angling Association.

The fishing rights for the River Ettrick were handed to the common good fund in 2006 by the Crown Estate, following a long-running dispute.

“It was then decided the angling association should pay a nominal charge of £50 to the Common Good, but it has taken three attempts until a lease was agreed last year, and the process has cost £728,” said Dr Neil.

“The council should be getting value for money for the Common Good and they clearly are not. There should be a more stringent procedure when spending Common Good funds.”

However, Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, defended the three-figure sum, saying it represents around five hours of a lawyer’s time.

When asked by Dr Neil at February’s Selkirk Community Council meeting if the fee was value for money, Councillor Edgar replied: “If there is a requirement for a lease then it would be.”

Dr Neil will now write to the Information Commissioner’s Office in an attempt to find out more about the council’s procedure for charging common good funds.

He is already challenging the local authority’s 2011/12 Selkirk Common Good fee of £15,000, which includes nearly £9,000 in legal fees for one official.

SBC argue that the recharge is for council officers’ time with full council agreement and is solely based on legal work carried out.