A row has erupted in Jedburgh after a deal to transfer the Town Hall to the trust which runs the local swimming pool was scrapped.
Scottish Borders Council’s executive agreed last week to abandon talks with the Jedburgh Leisure Facilities Trust (JLFT), despite having agreed 18 months earlier to offer it a 25-year-lease on the Abbey Place building.
Councillors were told no agreement had been reached because the JLFT believed the financial support offered by SBC was “inadequate”. They also heard there were “clear divisions” in the town regarding the move which was opposed by Jedburgh Community Council.
The hall will now form part of the wider transfer of all SBC’s public halls, libraries, museums and community centres to a new region-wide integrated culture trust run in conjunction with the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust (BSLT).
But this week, JLFT member George Burt blasted the decision, claiming councillors were misled last week and asserting that the hall’s transfer to community ownership had overwhelming local support.
Mr Burt told the Southern: “Our trust feels it must set the record straight because our best chance to get a town hall as least as good as the others in the Borders has been squandered, not by us, but by Jedburgh Community Council and SBC.
“Of course we would have liked more money but having negotiated £40,000 up front and £90,000 over five years, we wanted to forge ahead and were supported in that aim by two public meetings and a survey of townspeople.
“We considered the budget tight but realistic, allowing us to apply for external grants for major capital works. We were also confident of increasing hall usage, given the business expertise of our steering group and our success in rescuing a failing swimming pool and turning into one of the most efficient in the Scottish Borders.
“Yet when we turned up at a meeting with SBC officials in November last year which we thought was to finalise details of the handover, we were told they had been instructed not to deal with us any longer because the local SBC councillors did not support us.
“Well, these councillors [Sandy Scott, Jim Brown and Rory Stewart] did support us and I believe they told SBC so.
“No one discussed it with us or contacted us for 10 months until finally I was called to a meeting on August 11 to be told SBC officials were recommending not to proceed with the transfer.
“The community council’s stance was apparently the main reason for SBC overturning its previous decision to give us the lease.
“The people of Jedburgh have every right to be angry and dismayed.”
Richard Gordon, chair of the community council, told us: “The funding package on the table [from SBC] just didn’t add up and would have left the JLFT without any revenue support from the local authority after five years.
“On balance, SBC’s executive made a right and sensible decision last week.”