Saturday, August 26, 2006

Edinburgh Council accused of £25m abuse of Common Good Land

Common Good Fund Land has seemingly, either been given to favoured business partners of local politicians and local authorities in communities, or sold off 'on the cheap' in questionable deals by local councils, for years.

Now, the time comes to expose these crooked dealings .. and one such man, Andy Wightman, widely known for his expertese in land reform, has claimed in an article in the Herald newspaper, that some £25million worth of common good land has been mishandled by Edinburgh City Council.

The abuse of both Common Good Land and Common Good Fund Assets has been widespread throughout Scotland over the decades since these funds were first formed.

The Scottish Borders, for instance, has seem some very serious abuses of Common Good Funds, where for instance, the town of Jedburgh was identified by some within the community, to have lost large tracks of Common Good Land to private developers, and even saw Elected Councillors lobbying for huge grants from Common Good Funds to be given to Membership Only Golf Courses to buy scrub land off local lairds ... hardly, something which could be seen as a "Common Good" to a community .. grants of tens of thousands of pounds to a golf club which only allows selective membership .. while other more pressing grant applications fail ...

Time for a full investigation into the whole Common Good Fund system in Scotland, then .. as it is full of corruption where land and other Common Good Assets have passed between so-called 'trustees' to construction firms and other enterprises which offer undeclared returns for those same local politicians and 'trustees' who 'administer' the Common Good Funds ...

Read on for the artlcle from "The Herald" at :

City accused of £25m abuse of common land
BRIAN DONNELLY August 21 2006

AN investigation has been launched into allegations of mismanagement of land and assets belonging to the people of Edinburgh.

An expert in common good assets, properties historically owned by the taxpayer and managed by local authority custodians, has claimed around £25m worth of such land has been mishandled by the city council.

Politicians agreed to the investigation after independent research highlighted what were described as serious shortcomings in the council's stewardship of the fund, with claims that assets in the fund are now considered council property.

The report, produced by Andy Wightman, a recognised Scottish land reform expert, claimed that correct management along with the recovery of lost assets would mean millions of pounds worth of land being released to community developments.

His study shows that the former Waverley Market on the south side of Princes Street was transferred out of the common good fund by councillors in 1982 before it was replaced by Princes Mall shopping centre.

The centre has since been sold on, but it is estimated that if it had remained in the common good fund it could have earned millions of pounds in rent and still be worth around £20m as a capital asset.

Further concerns were raised over the sale of a council office in Merchiston Park for nearly £1m last year. The building was on common good land, but Mr Wightman claimed it never appeared in the fund until it was highlighted by him.

Mr Wightman said he believed the true extent of the mismanagement of the common good fund would be known only after a detailed analysis of common good assets had been established.

He said: "My colleague James Perman and I published a report on common good land in Scotland which revealed widespread concerns over the management of common good assets across Scotland.

"Following the publication of the report, I was alerted to a number of issues relating to the stewardship of the common good of the City of Edinburgh which revealed serious concerns as to how such assets were being perceived, recorded, accounted for, and administered."

Councillors agreed to the review at a meeting of the resource management and audit scrutiny panel.

A spokesman for the authority said it was developing an overall asset management plan, and "as part of that process, using outside help if necessary, we will review the common good fund in line with best practice".

The assets were donated to the people of Edinburgh by philanthropists or were formerly assets of the royal burgh. The last detailed survey of the assets was carried out in 1905.

Fighting for the communal good

MORAY The council is currently embroiled in a row with community activists over its decision to sell half an acre of Grant Park, the home of football club Lossiemouth FC, to its own quango, Moray Housing Partnership. The land was bequested to the people of Lossiemouth in the 1930s by the Laird of Pitgaveny, who said it should be retained in perpetuity for public recreation.

PEEBLES A private housebuilder was allowed to develop flats on a stretch of land by the River Tweed which belonged to the burgh's common good. The erroneous decision to grant planning permission was taken after it emerged title deeds to the land were almost indecipherable due to their age.

AYR A concerted community campaign was needed to help deter South Ayrshire Council from using part of the town's Old Racecourse playing fields for a new multi-million pound public-private partnership school

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