AN opportunity to present the facts to the people of Brechin over the loss of just under £1 million of Town Regeneration Fund cash is to be taken by Angus Council in the form of a public meeting (writes Steve Mitchell).
Council leader Bob Myles argued that his ruling rainbow alliance’s position over the meeting hadn’t changed, but added that local people had to be given the opportunity to hear why the money was lost.
The date, venue and logistics for the meeting will be revealed by Councillor Myles in a forthcoming edition of “The Brechiner”.
Councillor Myles also accused opposition SNP Councillor Mairi Evans of shedding “crocodile tears” over the lost cash.
He said: “My whole raison d’etre is to get the whole story out there, with the true facts.
“I think that’s what the people of Brechin want. They don’t want allegations and counter allegations and political mud-slinging.
“Mairi Evans has been armed with the facts all the way through and her position is absolutely crazy - because she knows it’s the facts.
“She may not have known what happened to the money when it went back to the Scottish Government but, as far as what Angus Council is concerned, she has been kept abreast of every movement by the THI committee all the way through.
“It really is crocodile tears from her as she has been fully armed with the facts every step of the way.
“She says she doesn’t know what’s been going on, yet she keeps calling for an enquiry.
“All a public enquiry will do is spend public money on something that would be an absolute waste of time.
“Our role is to explain to the people of Brechin what happened. We can only explain from the public side and I am very happy to do that.
“What I can’t tell the people of Brechin is why the Scottish Government hand you money with one hand and then take it away with the next.
“They haven’t made it clear at all what happened to the Town Centre Regeneration money. They promised us they would.
“The one thing I would hazard a guess at is that it has probably been spent on something else.”
Mr Myles said he would like to hold the public meeting as soon as possible.
“However, we do have the Scottish Parliamentary elections on the horizon and whether we will be able to stage it before that I don’t know.
“To my mind it’s an important issue, but I don’t want to see MSPs jumping on these sorts of bandwagons.
“To my mind the MSPs are using this as an opportunity to mud-sling and there is no great benefit in that.
“What the people of Brechin really want and really need is an explanation.
“While you get all these political viewpoints put back and forward what is important is that we feel the council did everything they could under the criteria laid down by the government of the day.
“The administration hasn’t changed its position at all. We feel exactly the same as we always have done.
“The way it was handled by the council was satisfactory and we were largely victims of circumstances outside our control and we tried to cope with the changes when they happened. We even tried to adapt when the first project fell through and when the second project came on stream, but we didn’t have time or weren’t given time by the Scottish Government.
“We were intent on delivering a good regeneration project. We weren’t to know that Woolies would be sold from under us or that, in the case of Flicks, the contractor involved would push all the way in an attempt to get more money from the project.
“One or two people have been shouting for a meeting. I feel the people don’t need a public enquiry, they need an explanation.
“We can only give an explanation as far as the council is concerned and it’s up to the Scottish Government to give an explanation on where they are putting that regeneration money.
“It hadn’t come to the end of their time scale for spending it overall and it returned to the big melting point as far as I’m aware.
“I think the best person to chair the meeting would be “Peem” Milne (chairman of the Brechin and Area Partnership).”
Mairi Evans welcomed news of a public meeting, she said: “Any opportunity to discuss the issues around the Town Centre Regeneration Fund should be welcomed and I am sure the people of Brechin will take the opportunity to come along and either have their say or listen to what is said.
“I welcome this turnaround by the administration and my message to them is - name the day - and make it sooner rather than later.
“Some of the members of their own administration have questioned the council’s handling of this affair and it’s high time the public in Brechin, who will directly suffer at the loss of the cash, got their say.”