Fife Council has been accused of financial mismanagement after it was revealed £400,000 of Scottish Government funding, originally earmarked to bolster ailing Kirkcaldy High Street, is to be used to pay for improvements to a theatre in the town.
Conservative councillors have hit out at the decision to redirect money without consultation and claim the move is proof the Labour/SNP coalition has turned its back on Kirkcaldy town centre.
The local authority announced in June £400k, the largest project to benefit from the £1.65m Kirkcaldy Town Centre Capital Fund, would be used for the acquisition of vacant properties, enabling the council to convert them to alternative uses.
However, councillors have been informed the cash will be instead used to create a cultural and community hub at the Adam Smith Theatre.
The administration blamed the change on property owners’ unrealistic valuation expectations and timescale constraints around compulsory purchase orders.
The decision has incensed Kirkcaldy councillor Kathleen Leslie, who said: “Kirkcaldy town centre once again bears the brunt of poor decision-making by the SNP-Labour coalition.
“In typical style of this administration, councillors were presented with a fait accompli, meaning there was also zero chance of any public consultation regarding this change.
“Labour has been failing Kirkcaldy for decades and now, along with their SNP coalition partners, they are determined to drive people away from the High Street.
“Whether it be ripping up the esplanade, Sunday parking charges or failing to look at ways to diversify the town centre, they are experts in ensuring that fewer and fewer people want to come to the heart of the town.”
Fellow Tory councillor, Richard Watt said: “This whole project was a ruse from the start.
“The bizarre plan was to move the indoor market out of its current location and into multiple shops on the High Street but instead of job creation, the council engages in wasting public money, bringing nothing to our town.
“This was yet another opportunity to reduce business rates, liberalise parking and de-pedestrianise the High Street but after 20 years, Fife Council can think of nothing better to do with investment than to prop up its theatre.”
The criticism has been rejected by Fife Council co-leader and Kirkcaldy councillor David Ross, who said the accusations of financial mismanagement were “ridiculous”.
The Labour councillor said: “When our plans were originally presented we were confident of purchasing a number of sites but that has since become unachievable.
“I’m disappointed that the Scottish Government is only giving us until the end of this financial year to use the money but the cultural hub is an exciting project we have been considering for some time which will certainly be of huge benefit to the town.
“The one thing didn’t want to do was lose the opportunity of using this funding to benefit the town. To suggest that we have, is ridiculous.”