January 30, 2008
Edinburgh’s citizens lose out
A long awaited reported has concluded that City of Edinburgh Council has diverted thousands of pounds away from Edinburgh’s Common Good Fund and paid it into the council’s mainstream budget instead.
A long-awaited report into the capital’s Common Good assets fund found that the city council pocketed thousands of pounds meant for the people.
The report by officials to go before councillors at the end of the month came after an expert in common good assets – properties historically owned by the taxpayer and managed by local authority custodians – claimed around £20m worth of such land had been mishandled.
The investigation fund that £70,000 from the sale of such property at Granton Road, between 1996 and 2003, was paid into the housing revenue account rather that the common good fund.
The Council was told that the money should be repaid to the common good fund and it has also called for changes in the “management and accounting principles governing the common good fund”.
The investigation also found that the Council’s city chambers, The Meadows parkland and some roads, but not property across the Old Town, New Town, Leith and Portobello, are assets of the common good fund.
Andy Wightman, a recognised Scottish land reform expert, claimed that the former Waverley Market on the south side of Princes Street was transferred out of the common good fund by councillors in 1982 before it was replaced by Princes Mall shopping centre.
The centre has since been sold on, but it was estimated that if it had remained in the common good fund it could have earned millions in rent and still be worth around £20m as a capital asset.
However, the new report by the director of finance, Donald McGougan, said that the council of 1937-8 transferred the fruit and vegetable market from Waverley to East Market Street.
He said: “Accordingly Waverley Market ceased to be part of the common good at the time of the transfer of the fruit and vegetable market to East Market Street.”
The balance of the fund as at March 31, 2007, was £1.67m, which has increased from a balance of £0.88m inherited from Edinburgh District Council on April 1 1996.