THE Provost of Angus has become embroiled in the calls for a public enquiry on Angus Council’s handling of almost £1 million of Town Centre Regeneration Cash, after she refused a question from opposition Councillor Mairi Evans at last week’s meeting of Angus Council in Forfar.
The SNP Councillor says she feels the Provost (pictured right) is guilty of “stifling debate and not allowing the democratic process to take full effect”, by refusing to allow a question on the subject, which centres on the loss of more than £800,000 of Town Centre Regeneration Cash.
Furthermore, under-fire Montrose Councillor David May, convener of the authority’s infrastructure services committee, also came under further calls to quit, this time from opposition members, after he failed to bring a report into the TRF to the meeting, as he promised to do in the last cycle of meetings.
Councillor Evans (pictured below) questioned Mr May on why the report hadn’t come before elected members.
Mr May refused to answer and instead it was left up to a council official to inform the meeting that the report would come before them at a “later date”.
Mairi Evans said: “What kind of democracy do we have here in Angus that doesn’t allow a question that thousands and thousands of people in the area I represent want to know the answer to?
“There was no discussion, no other questions asked, not even a chat between the Provost and council leader Bob Myles. I also got no answer to the question regarding the public enquiry. It was if they were trying to hide things.
“We should have also had a report on the matter to either infrastructure services or the full council at last week’s meeting.
“The Angus Council minutes highlight that Councillor May promised a report in the next cycle, so we should have seen that report by now.
“It would have gone to Councillor May’s committee. It never happened and it stinks. I don’t see what anyone has to lose by investigating this further to find out exactly what happened.
“Councillor May’s whole handling of this affair has seen him preside over the loss of almost £1 million to Brechin and now a report has failed to materialise at the proposed date.
“Councillor May’s position shouldn’t be up for debate, the matter of a public enquiry and the answers local people want should be.
“The people of Brechin have waited far too long on this and they still have no answers.
“Councillor May failed to deliver the Town Centre Regeneration Funding, he failed to deliver his report to infrastructure services or full council and he should now do the honourable thing.
“I cannot for the life of me understand, why Ruth Leslie Melville and Bob Myles, as Brechin councillors first and foremost, are not taking a lead on this.
“This isn’t a political issue, because we have had everyone from the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, to a member of the council’s own administration, backing calls for the enquiry.
“That view has been expressed across the political divide and I fail to see how we are progressing this by not debating it and answering the many questions that people have on the matter.
“The Provost stifled the debate, make no mistake.
“I said that this was such a big blow for Brechin and I was told ‘get to the question’. I replied that I was getting to the question. However, the Provost then started talking over me and simply moved on to the next item on the agenda.
“This is how serious the ruling administration take the loss of just under £1 million to Brechin and I think people will frankly be disgusted by it.
“When the report comes forward in the coming months I will go on calling for a public enquiry. People who elected us, whatever their political views, have a right to know how and why this money was lost. We haven’t been given any answers. All we have had is sheer cowardice on the part of people like Councillor May who has indulged in constant buck-passing to Bob Myles.
“Councillor Myles has already said he feels we don’t need an enquiry.
“However, I don’t believe that the majority of people in Brechin agree with that view.”
The Provost strongly refuted the allegation that she had stifled debate” and argued that as Provost she had to adhere to procedure, pointing out that in her opinion, “it was neither the time nor the place to discuss the matter.”
“The decision to knock back Councillor Evans’ question was totally procedural, there simply is no other agenda,” she commented.
“I have absolutely no problem with discussing things with the right people at the right time.
“However, I certainly cannot go against the procedure that both myself and Councillors Evans are bound by.
“I think everyone, David May included, has been as forthcoming as possible with everything relating to the loss of the cash.
“I think what the people of Brechin may equally appreciate would be a discussion between Mairi (Evans) and her political friends in the Parliament in Edinburgh and get them to offer some support and some help for Brechin and its people.
“After all, the money is there, why are they not coming forward with it, what have they got against Brechin?
“In this case, everything hinged on the developer coming on board and actually do what he said he would do.
“We have no control over a member of the private sector backing out, none whatsoever.
“We have to follow procedures and as I said there is a time and a place and this was neither the time, nor the place!”