Motion to suspend community grants withdrawn

Wednesday April 24th 2024


The Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Concern over the cost of bringing an East Lothian theatre back into use saw a call for community funded grants to be suspended across the county at a meeting today.

The Brunton Theatre, in Musselburgh, is a Common Good asset but was closed after the presence of crumbling concrete RACC was discovered in part of the building.

The cost of work required at the building is still unknown with a report due to come before East Lothian Council in the summer.

At a meeting of the council earlier today elected members were asked to approve the annual budget for each of its four Common Good Funds which were reported to have a surplus, to allow them to distribute funds to local groups and projects.

However Councillor Lachlan Bruce called on fellow members to defer the decision and suspend any grants until the cost of The Brunton repairs is known.

The meeting heard that as a Common Good asset the cost of repairs would be expected to come from the Musselburgh Common Good Fund.

Members were told that the costing for the work had been delayed by additional complications discovered in the roof with a report likely to come to council in the next few months.

Councillor Bruce questioned whether claims the funds were in surplus could be guaranteed given they were based on a review of assets five years ago.

He said: “We have no evidence to suggest the Community Good Funds are in surplus and have funds available to disperse. I worry we would be failing in our role as councillors if we allowed money to be spent without determining there is a surplus.”

Councillors heard the four funds, which are established for Musselburgh, Dunbar, Haddington and North Berwick, had a total balance of just under £8.5 million with more than £7.1 million in the Musselburgh fund.

The funding councillors were asked to approve for each pot was £4,000 from Dunbar, £10,000 from Haddington, £10,000 from North Berwick and £150,000 from Musselburgh.

Provost John McMillan told the meeting he could not support councillor Bruce’s call to defer allowing grants because he saw the benefits the money brought to communities.

And Musselburgh ward councillor Andy Forrest dismissed the call, telling the meeting the grant budget for Musselburgh “wouldn’t pay for four roof tiles on The Brunton Theatre.’

Common Good Fund grants are overseen by local ward councillors.

Councillor Lyn Jardine, Dunbar and East Linton ward questioned why stop all areas from awarding grants when it would only be the Musselburgh fund which would be affected by the Brunton costs.

She said: “I appreciate where Councillor Bruce is coming from but given there are a number of funds, it should be incumbent on the councillors involved to make the strategic decisions.”

Councillor Bruce withdrew his motion for a deferral of a decision over the budget which was approved by 15 to 4.

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