Three ‘not enough’ for fund group

Selkirk Council still owe residents of the redeveloped Rosebank Quarry money. The Common Goods Fund is due around �68,000.
Selkirk Council still owe residents of the redeveloped Rosebank Quarry money. The Common Goods Fund is due around �68,000.

THE working group which controls Selkirk’s Common Good Fund should have more than three members, writes Andrew Keddie.

That is the view of one of its number, Councillor Vicky Davidson, who claimed this week she was usually outvoted on decisions by her fellow members and councillors, Kenneth Gunn and Carolyn Riddell-Carre, at the group’s mainly private meetings.

Although all 34 members of Scottish Borders Council are trustees of all eight common good funds in the region, each working group, which can make unilateral decisions on cash disbursements of up to £10,000, comprises only those of the relevant multi-member ward.

“There are two Hawick wards which means its working group has six members, whereas Selkirk only has three and I really believe that is not enough for some of the quite important decisions we have had to make recently”, she said.

After 2007, when the multi-member wards were created, each common good working group had two extra members: the chair and vice-chair of the appropriate former area committees.

But that composition was scrapped in 2009, leaving Selkirk’s group, according to Ms Davidson, under represented.

She was commenting at Monday’s meeting of the community council which, as expected, agreed to oppose proposals currently being probed by lawyers engaged by SBC to pool the capital reserves of all common good and trust funds in a single investment strategy to maximise returns.

SBC will also be told that its councillors require proper training to fulfil their roles as common good trustees.

During the debate, local lawyer Kirstin Scott, adviser to the community council on a range of common good issues, stated: “When it comes to common good funds, elected members of SBC are not councillors, but trustees who are accountable to the beneficiaries, in this case the people of Selkirk.

“I think it would be huge benefit to have regular open forum meetings in Selkirk.”

Ms Scott also revealed that the £68,000 which SBC received in 2005 from the sale of the housing site at Rosebank Quarry had still not been transferred to the Common Good, despite the latter’s ownership of the land being notified in March, 2010, and conceded, by SBC, in March this year.

That was described as “scandalous” by community council vice-chairman Dr Lindsay Neil who earlier had railed against those charged to administer the common good fund.

“The capital balance has stood at £49,000 for many years and earns virtually no interest. You’ve got to ask why the pot has stayed so low for so long.”