Fizzing over funds

Call for heads to roll as Brechin loses out on revamp cash.

“Staff in economic development, infrastructure services and senior members of staff at Angus Council were all working from the same sheet.

“They couldn’t have done more or worked harder.” Councillor David May “Brechin Advertiser”

Thursday, January 20, 2011.

Question from Nigel Don in the Scottish Parliament: “To ask the Scottish Executive how many requests for meetings regarding town centre regeneration funding it has received from (a) the convener of infrastructure services and (b) officials of Angus Council in each month since October 2009.”

Thursday, January 20, 2011.

Reply from Mr Alex Neil MSP Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Communities. “We have received no requests for meetings regarding town centre regeneration funding from the Convener of Infrastructure Services at Angus Council within that time frame.

“According to our records, there were five meetings held with Angus Council officials: in December 2009, February 2010, May 2010, June 2010 and September 2010. We have received no written representations from the Convener of Infrastructure Services of Angus Council within this time frame.

MEMBERS of the public from across Angus and beyond have united in their condemnation of the local authority’s convener of infrastructure services in the wake of the loss of some £800,000 from the Town Centre Regeneration Fund. (write Steve Mitchell and Shona Beaton).

Indeed some are calling for heads, including that of Councillor David May, to roll.

And the people of Brechin feel they have cause to call for such action following questions raised in the Scottish Parliament on the very day Mr May was telling the “Advertiser” that “we couldn’t have done any more”.

The questions (see above) reveal that not a single meeting took place between the local authority and Scottish Ministers in just over three months leading up to the deadline for the Town Centre Regeneration Project on December 31.

This was despite Mr May telling “Brechiners” in last week’s edition that his colleagues and council officials “couldn’t have done more or worked harder.”

In his answers to the questions, Minister Alex Neil clearly states there was almost a four month period where not a single meeting took place.

Brechiners are still furious at the loss of such a large amount of money for their town centre and they have been joined by people from the periphery of the town in calling for heads to roll.

Local woman Gwen Valentine from Northwaterbridge said: “The council has definitely not done enough. The local authority could have done something and held meetings long before the deadline approached. David May should have done something straight after the first deadline was extended.

“If you or I were in a job and did it the way that David May has done it then we would no longer be in a job.

“I think David May should resign. He is not carrying out the wishes of the people of Brechin even although it is those same people who are paying his wages.”

Scott Williams of Brechin said: “It is a disgrace the way the council has acted. David May has not done enough. If he says that he has done all that he could and in fact he hasn’t then he should resign. I am Brechin born and bred and seeing the way the town has gone is an absolute disgrace.

“Bob Myles made comments that the closure of the base was what finished this town. This is a load of rubbish.

“The town was finished long before that. I was in textiles all of my days.

“When I worked at Dukes Factory there were 356 who worked there, and there was another textile factory, Smarts, who employed a further 290 employees. There were two canning factories and the Matrix had about 400 workers.

“It is too late for Brechin now. There is no interest in the town, nobody will come here now.

“Also the SNP Government have done nothing for Brechin.”

Brechiner Hayley Arthur said: “I don’t think that if they had done up Flicks it would have worked to be honest but if it is true that David May did nothing during October to December then I think he should resign.”

Hazel Morrice of Montrose, the area Mr May represents, said: “Although I do not come from Brechin I do feel that the whole process has been a shambles.

“I think that Brechin is the poorest neighbour hood in Angus and it is a shame. David May has not managed to run the process well and this has resulted in Brechin losing one of best chances they have at the moment to revive the town.

“If I was David I would be reconsidering my position in the council. I do not think that he is the only one to blame and perhaps the entire council team should think about stepping down and letting new blood in.”

Carol Thomson of Brechin added: “To find out just a week after Mr May claimed they had done all they could that nothing effectively happened for four months is really quite incredible.

“How can he remain in a position of responsibility especially with a remit to look after economic development matters?

“I am totally and utterly disgusted by this whole affair. I actually had hoped this money would bring about the kick-start Brechin so desperately needs.

“I also hope senior figures in Angus Council realise it’s time at least one of them carried the can for this shambles.”

Helen Oswald, leader of the SNP opposition on Angus Council, added: “At the last meeting of the council just before Christmas 2010, we were assured that the administration had been working flat out and would continue to do so right up to the last minute to save the regeneration project.

“In this context, it’s not surprising that the people of Brechin feel angry and badly let down by the convener, Councillor David May, when we learn that the last time the council wrote to the Scottish Government regarding the project was in September last year.

“So clearly these assurances were quite simply not based on the real facts.”

SNP North East MSP Nigel Don, who asked the questions, commented by saying: “Councillor David May assured us that he did all he could possibly have done to try and ensure that Brechin did not lose its funding.

“Those assurances have something of a hollow ring to them given that these answers show he held not one meeting and wrote not one letter to the Scottish Government.

“It is remarkable that no meetings were sought with the Scottish Government between October-December 2010, a critical period in terms of the funding being lost.

“The people of Brechin will undoubtedly be questioning whether Councillor May’s position is tenable after this latest revelation.”

David May said that he would not be resigning over the issue, that he didn’t feel he had misled the people of Brechin and that his position remained unchanged from last week.

“The discussions which took place, took place at official level. I have been told there was extensive correspondence between Angus Council officials and the officer responsible for Town centre Regeneration.

“Because I know my officials very well, I know they have worked their socks off. I was well aware of what was going on, although I wasn’t involved in the detail.

“I was also aware of the difficulties involved in both the Woolies project and the Flicks project. Why are these people looking for someone to carry the can?

“We are trying to make sure Brechin benefits as much as possible.”

We asked Councillor May if he was aware there were no meetings in the last four months prior to the deadline.

He said: “I never asked if there were no meetings, as I was given regular feedback on where the discussions were going. I regularly had meetings with the director of infrastructure services.

“Frankly I don’t think the officers or myself could have done any more. The lady from Montrose can have her own view on this and I concur that Brechin probably is the burgh in need of most support for its town centre.

“From August 11, 2010 through to January 5, 2011 there were 57 written communications between Angus Council and the Scottish Government concerning Brechin TCRF.

“Most of these were emails between respective officers but the number includes the formal written communication from/to the Minister.

“Furthermore, there were a considerable number of phone calls between officers but these were not recorded.

“Nigel Don MSP is SNP candidate for North Angus and the Mearns, and, as a former Dundee councillor, he should be aware that a convener has to adhere to Standards in Public Life and as with the minister does not get involved in managing the details of a project.

“That is quite clearly the responsibility of the council officers and they carried this out admirably. The project was reported on every month to the CPMG.

“I haven’t considered my position as I feel we have done everything we could have.”

Angus Council leader Bob Myles met with Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil last week to personally express his disappointment over the withdrawal of the remaining £800k of Brechin town centre regeneration funds.

“The government was very supportive of our proposals for the Brechin TCRF projects and was fully aware of the difficulties we faced with Flicks,” said councillor Myles.

“It was therefore very disappointing for everyone concerned that despite all of the hard work it became impossible to commit the remaining monies within the timescale.

“I took the opportunity when I met the Housing and Communities Minister to lobby for at least some of the uncommitted £800,000 to be reassigned to Brechin.

“After all there are proposals that could still be delivered to the economic benefit of Brechin but they need that injection of cash.”