How Argyll & Bute Works: Castle Toward Update

My previous post on the situation with Castle Toward can be read here.

There have been a number of people who have complained again to the council about what has happened, myself and Cllr Marshall included. The best thing this council could do now is cancel the sale due to the fact there is no longer any doubt about some of the things that happened last year during the community buyout. Information was provided selectively and in particular the work that Savills did for South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC) was treated with disdain.

The community feels cheated over what happened and Alan Stewart of SCCDC has written the following letter to Cllr Walsh, copying in Michael Russell MSP and Brendan O’Hara MP. I have also written this morning to Cllr Walsh asking him to postpone or cancel the sale.

Dear Councillor Walsh

You will have no doubt seen the report from the chair of the Performance Review and Scrutiny committee. (read this here)

You will note that he has criticised the interpretation of, amongst other things, the discrepancy between the valuations commissioned by the council and the one commissioned by SCCDC. The interpretation would appear to have been deliberately designed to make elected members feel that the Savilles valuation had no worth and should be discounted, yet the chair has shown that in fact the Savilles valuation was probably the most accurate.

By misrepresenting the valuations in their report to councillors, the council officers were misleading elected members in what appears to be an attempt to deliberately interfere with the buyout process, and as leader of Argyll and Bute Council it is inconceivable that you were not aware of the officers’ actions.

I have raised the issue of possible interference into the buyout process in the past, but this has been denied.  As it now would appear as a result of an internal investigation that at least some of the allegations were true, and officers of the council potentially did act in such a way as to mislead councillors with a view to cause the buyout to fail, I would anticipate that you will take the following action:

1                     Immediately cease all discussions with the Preferred Bidder and withdraw the estate from the market.

2                     Take the necessary steps to have ownership of the estate transferred to the local community.

3                     Support my complaint to the Chief Executive and encourage that an external investigation of the sale of Castle Toward and the actions of the council is undertaken at the earliest opportunity.

The reasons for the council’s opposition to the community and its desire to take ownership of the estate need to be established, and this will only be possible with external scrutiny.

The financial return to the council from the current sale will now be no more than would have been realised from a sale to SCCDC, given the considerable expense incurred maintaining the estate since the council withdrew from negotiations. Yet the damage to the council’s reputation is immense. The time has come to repair some of that damage.

Regards

Alan Stewart

Author: Michael Breslin

I am no longer a councillor with Argyll & Bute Council but given the appalling treatment I got from the senior officers and a few elected members, I plan to continue keeping an eye on what the council is doing.