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August 13, 2008

Forres community calls in the Audit Commission

Moray Council have been accused by Forres Community Council of mismanaging the Common Good and not keeping proper records of any disposals of Common Good assets in the past. The community representatives have been unhappy with the information provided by council officials and have asked the Audit Commission to investigate

Forres Gazette; By Tanya McLaren

Forres Community Council members are writing to Audit Scotland to ask them to investigate Moray Council’s handling of the Forres Common Good Fund.

Forres Community Council members are unhappy with the information supplied to them by the council to date, which they claim includes conflicting accounts for the same years, and a difference of opinion about which assets belong to the council and which belong to the Common Good Fund.

Forres Community Council has decided to hand over all its information to the Audit Commission, in a last-ditch attempt to investigate which assets belong to who and to clarify various sums of cash Moray Council has received from the sale of land or property they claim belonged to the Forres Common Good Fund.

Part of the remit of the 26 Moray Council members, which includes the four Forres councillors – Irene Ogilvie, Lee Bell, Jeff Hamilton and Iain Young – is that they are trustees of the Forres Common Good Fund. Community Council Vice-chairman, Bob Hellyer, appealed to the four Forres councillors to make their position known on the handling of the Common Good Fund accounts, as he said it would most likely be them that people would turn to with concerns over the issue.

A spokesman for Moray Council said that senior officials within the council had already held meetings with the community council and explained the accounts to them, and were more than happy to meet on an annual basis to discuss the Common Good accounts. He said that Elgin’s Common Good Fund was also complicated, and establishing a full list of Common Good assets was an almost impossible task which would take a long time and a good deal of money in terms of legal fees to complete. Meanwhile, Councillor Ogilvie said she was disappointed that the community council was contacting the Audit Commission, rather than continuing the dialogue with Moray Council officials.

At their last meeting, in the courtroom of the Forres Tolbooth, the community council voted unanimously to put all their information about the Common Good Fund, including valuations and accounts, to the Audit Commission.