Almost £2.5m set aside for a new all-weather Arbroath lifeboat appears to have sunk without trace from the town coffers.
And there are fears local donations might drift away in the wake of the station downgrading which has rocked the community.
In November, RNLI bosses in Poole confirmed Arbroath station’s fund was a healthy £3.9m.
It included almost £2.5m set aside for an all-weather Shannon lifeboat.
A large chunk of the total is understood to have been the proceeds of a legacy of two Ferraris sold to raise money for the charity.
RNLI bosses say the overall figure was a combination of what are known as restricted – Arbroath specific – and designated funds.
They have confirmed the current fund for the running of the station sits at just £273k.
Arbroath continues to oppose review outcome
The community is locked in a battle with the charity after a lifesaving review decision to locate a state-of-the-art Shannon ALB at Broughty Ferry.
Arbroath is to receive an Atlantic 85 rigid inflatable.
The crew say that while the boat its highly capable, it is not a suitable Arbroath replacement.
But the lifesaving organisation reject suggestions the move is a station downgrade.
There is anger that the Shannon – promised to Arbroath since 2014 – and the huge sum set aside for it, have gone.
The November letter from Poole HQ set out the position in the Arbroath fund.
It gave a total of £3,920,517.
- All weather lifeboat – £2.395m
- Shore works – £1.24m
- Crew training – £30,110
- D-Class lifeboat replacement – £7,369
Sadness over ‘secrecy’
Arbroath RNLI management group chairman Ian Ballantyne says the row has undoubtedly damaged the charity locally.
“This is still the only thing people are talking about in the town,” he said.
“It looks like they decided to withdraw the money and give it to someone else.
“We were never consulted or informed.
“I’m concerned that at no point between then and now has anyone told us what has happened.
“If they had said they’d re-jigged the whole thing, then we could have started that discussion.
“All we’ve asked for throughout all of this is honesty.”
He added: “It’s sad, but they are being so secretive.
“I got the RNLI bronze badge for the way I ran the lifeboat management group so they must have thought I was doing something right.
“But since this all broke we have had virtually nothing.
“It has all changed a great deal in a very short space of time.
“This is so sad because it is a charity that relies entirely on the support of the public.
“And in Arbroath that support has always been there.
“My concern is that if folk think they were leaving money to the RNLI to make sure the town could have the best possible boat, then what is going to happen in the future because of this.
“People may have left something in their will for the RNLI.
“Quite naturally they would have assumed that would mean it would go to the local station.
“But if that has not been specified then it might not come to Arbroath.”
Charity sets out funds situation
An RNLI spokesperson said: “The total consisted of both restricted and designated funds.
“Money left exclusively for Arbroath will be spent in Arbroath.
“The RNLI has received donations where the donor expressed a wish for them to be used at Arbroath and these are referred to as restricted funds that will be used for the purpose specified.
“Additional money from the main RNLI fund has been provisionally earmarked for Arbroath.
“These are referred to as designated to Arbroath and can, if required, be used elsewhere.
“Very few stations are financially self-sufficient and receive money from the charity’s central funds to subsidise what is raised locally.
“For context, the through-life costs of an Atlantic 85 lifeboat are £669,000 over an estimated 15-years on station.
“Over the last ten years, Arbroath have self-funded less than 30% of their total running costs.”
RIB due at Arbroath within days
An Atlantic 85 is due to arrive in Arbroath next week for familiarisation trials.
And the charity has revealed the cost of replacing the 220-year-old town station will run into millions.
Arbroath is the only Scottish station still with a slipway launch and is not suitable for an Atlantic 85.
The RNLI added: “The RNLI would not commence a fundraising appeal to build a new lifeboat station until we have more accurate costings for the project, planning applications have been submitted and and we have designs drawn up.
“Our estates team are in the early stages of the project.
“Due to the ever-changing financial climate, it is difficult to put a figure on it at this stage, but we estimate costs to be over £3m.”