Common riding fundraising could be hit by council figures mistake

THE chairman of a common riding committee has told TheSouthern that bank balance figures reported by Scottish Borders Council bear no relation to the actual funds held and could affect fundraising attempts, writes Adam Drummond.

The figures were produced for a meeting on January 31 by the council’s business consultancy unit as part of a report on local festival funding grants.

In the report and associated appendices the figures showed that Lauder Common Riding Committee had over £44,000 to spend as of November last year.

However, the chairman of the organising committee has revealed that the figures are wildly inaccurate.

Ian Fallas said: “The figures published by the council bear absolutely no relation whatsoever to what the true figures are. We thought it was a misprint.”

He added that at their AGM in November the committee had just over £22,000 at their disposal, half the total stated in the SBC report.

Sections of the report, and associated figures, featured in an article in TheSouthern on the allocation of grant money to local festival organisers.

“The council are now wanting to print a retraction and apologise,” said Mr Fallas, who added: “They don’t know where they got the figures from.”

The council report stated that the figures, showing year-end balances from 2009/10 to 2011/12, were taken from approved festival committee accounts.

Mr Fallas said he feared that the publication of the inaccurate figures could hit fundraising attempts in the town this year.

“Throughout the year we rely on fundraising events, like quiz nights or casino nights, as well as the general collection boxes, but now it has been advertised that we have supposedly got £44,000 in the bank, people will be more reluctant to give their money.

“We’ve told folk it is a load of nonsense,” he added.

With basic costs for the common riding alone standing at £10,000, and a bill for around £12,000 to put on the annual ball, Mr Fallas said the committee had ‘very little leeway’ for unexpected costs, or if the event suffered from bad weather.

“Costs are rising, so we have to fundraise even harder,” he added.

“There is only so much money out there. Things are challenging for everyone in the Borders and there are so many other organisations chasing the same pound, so you can’t justify going to the same people, asking for more and more money.”

Mr Fallas said he understood from the council that Lauder was the only festival to have suffered from the wrong figures being reported.

An SBC spokesman said: “Lauder Common Riding Committee has contacted us regarding some incorrect information. We have traced this back to an appendix that was issued with a public report for the council’s executive committee on December 4 last year.

“We now acknowledge that there is a mistake in the figures given for their end-of-year balances for the past three years – which were wrongly listed as being between £44k and £46k.

“We have apologised to Lauder Common Riding Committee for this oversight and will correct this in any future paperwork.”

The mistake has been put down to human error.

SBC gives Lauder a £3,300 grant each year to help with the running of the common riding, from a total pot of more than £82,000 for local festivals.