Precedent set for common good fund?

THE use of the Forfar Common Good Fund to prop up various sports projects in the town was questioned at this month’s meeting of Forfar Community Council.

Meeting after Angus Council agreed to provide £20,000 towards the installation of a synthetic pitch at Forfar Athletic’s Ground at Station Park (see separate story on page five), members warned Angus Council may have set a precedent by providing Common Good funding to a business venture.

Chairman Mrs Isobel Ross expressed her fears that the fund was being turned into a “sports fund”, and pointed out the Forfar Common Good Fund was set up for the benefit of the community.

Community councillor Alistair Cormie questioned the £25,000 funding from Angus Council’s leisure services division, as well as the precedent now set by the council by using Common Good Fund money to support a business (Forfar Athletic).

He felt the £25,000 could have been used for other projects in the town, and pointed out that there would be a lot of people in the community who would not benefit from the funding for the all-weather pitch at Station Park.

He said: “I can see a problem here as the council has supported this business. If I was a business-person in Forfar I could come forward asking ‘why have you supported this business but you are not supporting any other business’. They are making a rod for their own back.”

Angus Councillor Colin Brown reminded members that, in the past, some £108,000 of Common Good Fund money was used to improve the road leading to Suttieside, which benefited businesses in that area.

He also advised that a percentage of the profits from the all-weather pitch at Station Park would go towards the Forfar Community Sports Association which is currently fund-raising for an all-weather pitch at Forfar Academy.

However, Mrs Ross said: “I have great fears the Common Good Fund is becoming a sports fund. As I understand it the Common Good Fund is for the benefit of the town and the people of the town.”

She pointed out that there were a lot of young people in the town who were not sports orientated, and suggested there were other projects in the town which could benefit from Common Good Fund money.

She said: “When the town is needing so much work done to it, in various ways, should the money not be channelled in to what we need for the town?”

Members asked that only the interest is spent each year from the fund and that there was more public consultation concerning the allocation of the funds.

They also felt that, when the council was unable to finance projects in the town, councillors would “raid the Common Good Fund”.

Mrs Ross highlighted the use of Common Good Fund money to purchase tables for the Reid Hall in Forfar - which is on the Common Good - and the hiring out of the tables to other burghs.

She asked: “Why should these be used for others when they were paid for from the Forfar Common Good Fund? I have no objection to money being taken out of the Forfar Common Good Fund for the Reid Hall, providing it all stays in Forfar.”

However, Angus Councillor Colin Brown stressed other burghs would hire the tables bought for the Reid Hall - it would not be the case they would simply “get a shot of them”.

“So money will come back in to the Forfar Common Good Fund,” he added.

Members called for the Common Good Fund to be run more like a business, with Mrs Ross stating: “We are here for the community and I think we should get some input as to what is going out.”