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Inverness Provost and depute defeated in city funding row

Inverness provost Helen Carmichael
Inverness provost Helen Carmichael

Inverness’s two senior councillors faced calls to stand down yesterday in a bitter row over funding for the city.

Provost Helen Carmichael and her deputy Bet McAllister had sought support in rolling out cash to various controversial projects across the city – including “artistic” illumination lights worth £300,000.

But councillors Ken Gowans and Ron MacWilliam claimed decisions had been made behind closed doors and asked for a deferral.

They won a motion to have a decision on the proposed Inverness projects put on hold to allow the city committee to consider the merits of the plans.

The vote went in their favour 15-2, with only Mrs Carmichael and Mrs McAllister voting against.

Mr Gowans said: “The Council has ranked its top three priorities for Inverness as £100,000 to part fund three mobile light projectors – costing a total of £300k – renovations to the WASPS Midmills Building, and cash to the Victorian Market.

“But a condition of the grants is that the projects have the rest of their funding in place – but none of these meet that criteria.

“Thankfully the EDI committee voted to delegate the decision-making to the Inverness committee, despite strong objections from the city’s civic leaders.

“This must be the first time in history that a provost and deputy provost of Inverness have proposed and seconded an amendment to deny councillors representing  Inverness to have  their say in a democratic elected forum.

“These were the only councillors in the chamber who did not support the motion to remit this to the members of the City of Inverness Area Committee.

“Perhaps Provost Carmichael and deputy MacAllister should now consider their positions in light of their stance.”

Mr MacWilliam added: “This decision by the EDI Committee was a victory for democracy and for the city of Inverness.

“There are projects across Inverness crying out for capital funding so it was her responsibility as Provost of Inverness to ensure this terrific cash injection from the Scottish Government was utilised to its full potential.

“This council administration never learns, they plunge from one blunder to another. What should have been a day of celebration has been dampened by secrecy and ineptitude.

“I hope Councillors Carmichael and McAllister don’t make further attempts to shut down the discussion when Inverness councillors eventually get the chance to debate these important projects in public.”

The Scottish Government has awarded Highland Council £2.9million on town regeneration projects, with £600,000 allocated to Inverness.

The Provost said last night: “Both Bet and I are very disappointed and don’t feel this reflects the discussions in the chamber. An email went to all members in May to engage them in the process. Our main concern is that due to very tight timescales – with all funding having to be spent by April – this delay could jeopardise the Inverness projects.We have every faith that the cross party working group have scrutinised the projects against the set criteria.”

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