This week in Annandale 12/10/2015

Milligan Paulin Bequest
Well once it was re-discovered during an audit of small trusts overseen by the Council, this Trust, originallly for supporting residents of Lockerbie in attending Edinburgh University, was effectively wound up and its assets (around £7k) transferred to the Dumfriesshire Educational Trust so that it could be pooled in with other assets and have a better chance of sustainably benefiting students from the Lockerbie area. Quite a few of the smaller trusts, bequests and Common Goods are now reaching a point where the invested assets are barely enough to generate a return that covers the cost of administering them so work is being done to pool where possible or just use up the remaining monies for local projects.

Lochmaben Tenants and Residents Association
This has another name now so it covers more of Annandale. DGHP were in attendance at the portacabin meeting in Lochmaben where some issues were raised, most often around who is responsible for maintenance of land and property. I’d been able to raise the SGN meter change issue in a letter to DGHP so they are now aware of the issue and providing a point of contact and support for tenants, having got a programme of replacement works from SGN so they know roughly when tenants may be affected. Should be some railings going all the way down from the portacabin to the road as Council and DGHP are recognising the safety concerns of residents in Stanedyke Crescent.

R&D Construction owned land which was part of the old railway line in Lochmaben, behind Barras where the unofficial shortcut is, and it turns out that the Council are still owed £10,000 by R&D. Ernst & Young LLP are the liquidators who will be dealing with the sale of any land owned by R&D but because DGC is an unsecured creditor it’s very unlikely to see any of this money, whereas the banks will be the secured creditors and will be first in line to get any proceeds from the sale of R& D assets.

DGHP have assured me that as a goodwill gesture they will do a one off cut of the undergrowth just now to tidy it for the winter but come next summer this is not something they can continue.

Beattock Station
This project has developed now to look at a ‘pre-appraisal’ approach to ascertain the case for stopping trains and re-opening the station before a full-blown STAG. Swestrans (the local transport partnership) are more able to support this type of approach, which will give any independent pre-appraisal study the appropriate credibility, but funding may be very limited as their allocated budget is for the Station Reopening Fund which doesn’t cover the complexities of the WCML and the fact that it’s not part of the Scotrail network (even though it’s quite clearly in Scotland.) A proactive constituency MP should help support this as it’s the UK Department for Transport that need influenced when looking at intercity service franchises, so come on David.

Moffat CAN (Ltd)
I was able to meet up with the new Chair of Moffat CAN (Ltd) at the Annanside building in Moffat. There have been a number of concerns raised about the Moffat site (which forms part of the wider Moffat CAN Ltd sites, e.g. in Lockerbie and Annan) by individuals and Moffat Community Council recently, as many of the activities that were being carried out on the property have stopped. The land and building was of course transferred to the community enterprise from the Council but the ownership of the land was not straightforward and there were conditions attached to the transfer on what the property could be used for.

There seems to be a weakness in Governance generally that is sabotaging the future of good intentions. There is a good argument for being loose to encourage community enterprise and make it ‘easier’ to happen but without good governance where public assets, public funding, andsustainability within the community are concerned this could turn into a slash-and-burn romp through public funding agencies for seasoned applicants with vision. The legacy can be half-finished projects, no accountability, loss of opportunity for the wider community and other potentially sustainable projects, waste of public resources, and a growing cynicism from the wider public that there is no will within funding agencies or community enterprises to monitor and ensure that best value is being achieved over 3, 5 or 10 years.

Anyhow, we discussed how the board could be strengthened and members could be trained as a matter of course so that there would be more confidence in the community. We discussed how projects and personalities within the organisation were being managed (against a criticism from outwith that some personalities and volunteers were given free reign to pursue initiatives without proper accountability to the board) and what good practice would look like in a sustainable organisation. I’m currently checking with agreement from the Chair what provision there is for using part of the property as a source of income by renting as someone seems to have steamed off and arranged all this to the point where people may be put at risk. Concerning. Community Enterprises in former public assets would normally clear this first, then act, perhaps by an open advertisement to let part of a property. The issue for the board and for the public is not always whether things are being done right, but the perception of whether things are being done right.

It was a good discussion and I think there was a genuine commitment to improving the board’s oversight so will look forward to some positive developments in the near future.

Community Council in Beattock
The overhanging tree from the school at Craigielands should be cut back shortly, Smiths Way sign has been ordered and will be in place soon, the School warning sign has been replaced, the pot-holes left by the missing cats-eyes have been repaired, the blocked drains are going to get a proper unblocking with a specialist contracted service, bus shelters should have been cleaned, Moffat Manor have been contacted by the Council asking them to address the overgrown areas encroaching on the footpath, the wasps nest has been removed from the pavilion (although works are still to be carried out on repairs), and DGHP have cut the grass they missed at Craigielands and will repair the guttering and damage to the wall of the garage. The downside is the request by the Hall Committee and the Community Council for a disabled parking bay for access to the village hall has been presented with a hurdles in that it “does not meet the current criteria for a request for a disabled parking place”. Some work still to do…

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