The Inverness Common Good Fund is due to lose tens of thousands of pounds a year in income it makes from the Town House car park.
A Highland Council investigation has revealed the car park is not a common good fund asset – so profits shouldn’t go into its pot.
Any changes could leave local charities who regularly benefit from the historic fund worse off.
For now, Inverness councillors are investigating whether they can buy the car park for the fund.
Either way, they hope to keep the status quo until the end of the year.
This would allow the common good fund to earn money over the busy Christmas period.
Less money available for common good spending
The news comes as 16 awards, totalling £283,000, have been approved from the Common Good Fund for local charities and groups.
It is feared loss of income could affect similar payments in future.
A report to Highland Council’s Inverness area committee said an investigation into the car park title was done as part of the Inverness Castle development project.
It concluded the land occupied by the facility was acquired for statutory purposes and therefore it is not a common good asset.
This dates from the creation of the car park and street widening works in the 1930s.
“The loss of the car park as an income generating asset will reduce the funds received by Inverness Common Good Fund resulting in less money being available for use in connection with common good discretionary spend.”
The report says budgeted income from the car park for 2023-24 is £24,000.
Gross income from the first six months of this year is £30,000.
Operational and staff costs have to be deducted from that figure.
The committee backed a move from Councillor Alasdair Christie to defer the reclassification until January 1 2024.
“It would seem the most logical time to do it. And the common good fund would get additional money over the Christmas period”, he said.
The decision will now go to the full council meeting next month for approval.
The full council will also discuss the possibility of the car park being bought by the Common Good Fund.
Shocked and disappointed
Councillor Alex Graham said he was shocked and disappointed to hear the position.
He believes the car park could bring in around £60,000 a year.
“It is well within the capabilities of the Inverness Common Good Fund to purchase the car park as an asset, as an investment, which could generate a good return.
“It clearly generates incomes and it may be it produces a better level of return.”
Inverness area manager David Haas said the fund currently has over £4 million in reserves.
He said a business case would have to be made for any purchase.
Paul Nevin, executive chief officer performance and governance, said the council owns the car park “so you cannot sell or buy from yourself”.
“There would have to be some form of notional arrangement if that’s how council wants to proceed.”
In February, the council agreed an Inverness Common Good Fund budget of £2.2 million for 2023-24.
This included £200,000 to help people most at need to heat their homes this winter.
The latest awards range from £924 for Inverness Military Wives Choir towards Remembrance concerts to £150,000 for new equipment at Whin Park.
Other payments include £25,000 to Blythswood Care towards the Highland Foodbank.
The Special Needs Action Project is receiving £30,000 to expand services at the Haven Centre.