A MEMBER of Angus Council’s ruling administration has backed calls for an “independent enquiry” into the loss of nearly £1 million for the Brechin Town Regeneration Fund.
He has been joined by one Tory MSP and a prospective SNP MSP in calls for a deep-rooted and meaningful investigation into how Brechin lost out on such a large amount of cash.
Arbroath-based Councillor Jim Millar said he would back any move for an independent enquiry into the council’s handling of the entire affair and also stated that it may well be that Tayside North MSP, John Swinney, the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary should be the man appointed to instigate the enquiry.
Commenting on the news that the Scottish Government has allowed the allocation of a further £100,000 of the Brechin Town Centre Regeneration money, North East MSP Alex Johnstone, who also raised the issue at Question Time in the Scottish Parliament said: “I welcome this move by the Scottish Government, but the fact is that I am deeply troubled at the loss of the remainder of the money which represented considerable, and much needed, investment for Brechin.
“I believe that questions need to be asked about how this situation was allowed to occur in the first place, and I am calling on the Minister to launch an investigation into the failure of this project.
“For example, we need to know why this was allowed to drag on without any real progress, why so much of the money was allocated to a single project, did the council’s Economic Development Department keep elected members of the council fully aware of just how bad the situation was becoming, and was there no realistic fall-back position to spend this money?
“I’d also like to know just how much of the money has been spent on paying consultants in connection with the project, and were the criteria laid down by the Scottish Government on how the money could be spent a major stumbling block in achieving a successful outcome for this investment?”
Concluding, Mr Johnstone said “Spending money on regenerating a town centre should have been all in a days work for any Economic Development Department, and this spectacular failure is a tragedy for Brechin.”
The Brechin Advertiser also spoke to Angus Alliance Councillor Jim Millar about calls for an investigation.
He said “The failure to spend this money after so much effort went into securing it, is a massive blow, and I think there is merit in calls for a full and independent investigation. If that instigated by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney, I for one, would back it.”
SNP candidate for Angus North & Mearns, Nigel Don, has written to Angus Council’s convenor of infrastructure services, Councillor David May, to ask what steps he took to try and ensure that the monies lost to Brechin under the Town Centre Regeneration Fund were rescued.
The monies, totalling over £900,000, were lost after a second extension was granted by the Scottish Government.
Commenting Mr Don said: “It is clear that the Scottish Government bent over backwards to try and ensure that Angus Council could spend the money it had been granted to regenerate Brechin, but clearly they could not be expected to indefinitely extend the time scales for work to be carried out. Many projects across Scotland have been successfully delivered within the time scales stipulated, and it is of concern that Angus Council was unable to deliver in this regard.
“Councillor May, as the lead councillor responsible for this matter, must take the opportunity to advise what steps he took to try and secure the money for Brechin.
“Did Councillor May immerse himself in trying to secure the delivery of the project? Did he make personal representations to the Scottish Government to try and achieve a further deadline extension?
“These are questions I am sure the local community will want answers to, which is why I have asked them and why, I hope, Councillor May will answer them.”