Concern over Common Good Fund jazz move

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THE decision to give money from Rothesay’s common good fund to the Isle of Bute Jazz Festival, instead of the Bute Advice Centre, has been criticised by one of the island’s community councillors.

Rosemary Laxton, BCC’s representative for Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay, said she was “very concerned” at how the decision was taken to redirect £5,000 which was originally given to the community council to put towards Rothesay’s new Christmas lights.

The decision to re-allocate the money was taken by officers and local members of Argyll and Bute Council last month, after the community was given one week to raise £15,000 to save this year’s jazz festival from being cancelled.

Mrs Laxton told BCC’s February meeting this week that she felt the advice centre, whose funding difficulties have been the subject of several recent articles in The Buteman, would have been just as deserving of the cash as the jazz festival.

“I’m very supportive of the jazz festival,” Mrs Laxton told the meeting, “and I think it’s very important for the island, but there would have been other organisations, such as Bute Advice Centre, which would have been a very deserving candidate for the money.

“I’m very concerned at the decision and how it was taken. We weren’t consulted about it. I know there wasn’t a lot of time, but all of us are on email.”

BCC chairman Donnie MacLeod said the community council had simply been asked to return the £5,000 to the common good fund after discovering it was not required for the lights.

“It wasn’t our money,” Mr MacLeod said

“The councillors managed to transfer that money to the jazz festival, but it was not our decision - all we did was return the money.”

Island councillor Len Scoullar said money from the common good fund normally had to be used for a capital project for the common good of the Rothesay town area.

An application from the advice centre had, he said, been turned down because it did not meet that condition, having asked for money to meet day-to-day running costs and staff wages.

Advice centre chairman and BCC member Bill McQueen said that when their application to the common good fund was turned down, he had received a copy of the criteria for the fund which stated it was “not normally for ongoing expenditure”.

Mr McQueen told the meeting: “The word ‘normally’ kept cropping up, and we hoped that if our application was regarded as exceptional, it would get by.

“The criteria did stress that the Common Good Fund was for one-off events, not continuing expenditure, but to my mind our application was a one-off, and we did meet their requirements, because the word ‘normally’ was in there.

“I think the rules for disallowing us were a bit harsh, and that our previous application could have scraped through, but clearly it was decided that it didn’t fit entirely with the criteria.”

However, Mr McQueen said the centre had submitted a new application for £4,000 to renew its IT equipment – if it receives money from other sources to continue operating.

Councillor Scoullar told Mr McQueen: “To be fair, your previous application to the common good fund mentioned wages, and that is a big taboo item.”