Fury as “£500,000 “found” for play-park

Isobel Ross, chairman of Forfar Community Council.
Isobel Ross, chairman of Forfar Community Council.

NEWS that £500,000 of council money has been “found” to up-grade a play-park in Arbroath was met with fury and dismay at Forfar Community Council last Thursday evening, writes Janet Thomson.

Chairman Isobel Ross said the money for the West Links Play-park could have gone a long way to upgrade one of Forfar’s two “derelict” former primary schools to create some form of library, cultural or heritage centre, or a community centre.

She questioned how the council had been able to “find” half a million pounds for Arbroath, on top of funding which had already been made available to the coastal town including £450,000 for the “Year of the Light.”

She asked: “Where did the council find the money? Why Arbroath? There’s a lot that could be done across the county, and in particular in Forfar, with that money. Why is it all going to Arbroath? It could be used to clear the weeds in Forfar. Civic pride is becoming a joke in this town. It’s just not on. I am getting complaints left, right and centre.”

She told the meeting she received eight complaints in one day in May about “certain elements” in the town.

“Now, I am getting nothing but complaints about money going to Arbroath, people asking what is happening to Chapelpark and Wellbrae - there’s no decision - then £500,00 goes to Arbroath. Forfar is needing so much and I have no doubt there are other places in the county which could use the same amount of money - but where did it come from?

“We need a new swimming pool and have been told we won’t get it for however many number of years. I, personally, think this is a gross insult to places like Forfar, Brechin and other places that are needing so much spent on them and it is all going coastal. No maintenance is getting done. A lot could have been done across the county, in each of the burghs. Look at the mess around the streets. The town is awash with weeds.”

Councillors Bill and Glennis Middleton told the meeting the money had been “parachuted in” as the play-park was not in the capital plan.

Mrs Middleton said there had been a “fairly heated debate” when the funding was discussed at committee.

She said: “That was not in any capital plan but was parachuted in at the last minute, There was some fairly heated debate as to how £500,000 could be found, just like £10 million happened to be found for Montrose.”

The latter was for what was initially to be a new swimming pool for Montrose, but which is now a swimming pool and leisure centre. Whilst she had no objections to money being spent in other burghs, she did object to things being “parachuted in” with no fore-warning or pre-discussion.

When asked to explain where the £500,000 funding had come from, a spokesperson for Angus Council said: “As part of its budget deliberations, the council agreed to set aside £700,000 as a contingency fund specifically to deal with any funding difficulties which may have emerged following the severe winter weather. However it was found that any works required were able to be funded from existing budgets, and the council agreed that the sum of £500,000 was to be allocated from the contingency fund to the West Links project, as part of the wider regeneration of this area, and of Arbroath.”