A public spending watchdog has ruled that a decision to use £100,000 of Common Good funding to cover the cost of new cabling for Burntisland Links should be reviewed.
Members of the Kirkcaldy area committee authorised the contribution from the Burntisland Common Good Fund in April 2019 after electricity problems prompted showmen to warn they would “abandon” the seaside town’s popular annual fair – which normally runs from May to August – if they were forced to rely on diesel generators.
Faced with the prospect of losing the attraction if an upgrade was not carried out, councillors agreed to divert the Common Good funding towards the £160,000 total cost of the work to ensure the historic fairground would go ahead as planned.
However, the decision proved divisive, with the town’s community council among those arguing the money should be spent on other projects.
Sixteen months on, Audit Scotland has recommended the issue should be looked at again after identifying serious flaws in how the committee and council officials approached the matter.
A spokesperson for Audit Scotland has suggested councillors were not aware of all the facts prior to making the decision and called for it to be re-examined.
“The Links ground is common good property and the ground is notionally leased to the council for a nominal rent on a full repairs and insurance (FRI) basis,” the spokesperson said.
“The council’s view was that the replacement of the cabling was not simply a ‘repair’ and so some of the cost should be funded from the Common Good Fund.
“Our review of the paper produced for area committee authorisation found that it included an inaccurate policy reference, did not properly reference the 2014 common good policy, did not mention the FRI basis of the notional lease and did not include the council’s judgement (that this cost did not constitute a repair under this arrangement).
“As a result, the area committee was not fully informed at the time of reaching its decision to authorise the £100,000 contribution.
“The Kirkcaldy area committee should request a revised paper and reconsider its decision based on complete and accurate information.”
Fife Council has said officers have now been identified to take responsibility for the implementation of Audit Scotland’s recommendation, although it remains unclear exactly when Kirkcaldy area councillors will review their decision and if it is overturned, if cash will need to be paid back as the work has already been done.
Burntisland Community Council advised against the Common Good funding being used.
Alex MacDonald, chairman of the community council, said: “It was agreed that replacing the electricity supply was necessary but raiding the Common Good Fund would be totally unacceptable.”
The community council also recently pointed out a number of applications had since been made for Common Good funding, many of which were unlikely to be met as it would take the fund into the red.