SBC spends £1.3m on hall it doesn’t own

SELKIRK’s Victoria Hall faces a “challenging” future after it was confirmed the landmark civic facility, along with the caretaker’s flat, is a common good asset, writes Andrew Keddie.

The revelation came at a meeting last week of the Selkirk Common Good Working Group, comprising the three Selkirkshire representatives on Scottish Borders Council which has claimed to be the rightful owner since it was created in 1996.

The discovery follows research by the solicitor engaged for a year by SBC, whose 34 elected members are trustees of all common good funds in the region, to resolve ownership issues.

Selkirk was the first burgh chosen for Roddy McGeough’s investigation. Other assets of which SBC had assumed ownership, but which are in fact in the common good, are the Bog Park recreation area, the riverside civic amenity site, the Toll embankment and Rosebank quarry which has been largely developed for private housing.

But the revelation about the Victoria Halls is by far the most significant, with a report to the working group showing that since 1996 SBC has spent a staggering £1.3million on the building, including property and employee costs, and capital financing.

During that time, it has taken in just £335,000 in income, leaving a net deficit of £967,000.

And the report stressed that all future capital costs will now have to be met from the common good, which has currently only around £50,000 in its capital account and around £80,000 in its revenue coffers.

“The council [SBC] spent this money in good faith believing the Victoria Halls to be a council asset,” said Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, who chairs the Selkirk working group. “Our challenge from now on will be to see that we can earn enough to maintain the halls. We are very concerned as to how on earth we are going to be able to afford its maintenance ... somehow we are going to have to make it self-funding.

“The last thing any of the Selkirkshire councillors want to see is the sale of Selkirk’s farms to maintain buildings in the burgh.”

The updated list of common good assets will be discussed by the community council next month.