The Dunoon Observer has a piece on their website today about the latest on Castle Toward. Their piece can be read at:
It’s becoming clearer that the council has a real problem on its hands and it’s wholly their own fault. The manner in which the community buyout was handled was shameful and my own views on this are in previous posts, here and here.
Alan Stewart of SCCDC has today written to all the councillors, His email is reproduced below. Surely some of the councillors will start to see the light of day and stand up for the community…or am I day dreaming?
Much more to follow I think.
You should all now be aware of the report prepared by the independant chair of the Performance Review and Scrutiny Committee, if not it can be found at item 17 here:http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=460&MId=6747&Ver=4
You will see that he has criticised the way some important information, particularly in relation to the valuations that were carried out, was presented to councillors, and that this presentation painted the buyout in a negative light. I contest that this was potentially done deliberately to make you as councillors feel that the project was not worth supporting. I have attached a copy of a complaint I and several others have lodged with the councils Chief Executive for your information.
What has also been shown as a result of the scrutiny is that council officers, contrary to what they originally stated, did in fact discuss what would be needed for them to make a positive recommendation that a discount be offered, no such recommendation was ever made despite the conditions having been met by SCCDC. This I feel was done to persuade SCCDC to drop an appeal with the Land Tribunal, which would almost certainly have found in our favour, given what we now know of the true value of the estate.
This whole procedure has been extremely damaging for the reputation of Argyll and Bute Council, and will result in no additional financial gain over the offer of £850k made by SCCDC. Almost £180k has been spent in keeping the castle secure since the council withdrew from negotiations with SCCDC and the offer on the table is £1.1m. There is no guarantee that the balance to £1.5 million will ever be paid.
There is though a chance for the council to redeem itself. A decision such as this can be overturned within six months should sufficient councillors request it, or the Provost can agree that there has been a material change in the circumstances. In this case the fact that the council will not receive the £1.75m that council officers told you that the estate was worth, and that an internal investigation has shown that you as elected members were given misleading information over the value of the estate, is more than enough of a material change to warrant revisiting the decision.
As I said, the damage to the reputation of Argyll and Bute council is huge, yet again Government legislation has had to be changed as a direct result of the actions of the council. It is time now to try and repair at least some of the damage. I urge you to take whatever measures are necessary to halt the current sale and to re-open negotiations with the community with a view to transferring ownership. I would also urge that you question the reasons for the lack of accuracy in the information you were given throughout the buyout attempt. There has to be a reason to reject a £10m project with 100 jobs. A project that required no financial input from the council, only that it accepted a realistic price for the estate.