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Call for Highland Council investigation into pool payments from Nairn Common Good Fund

By Donald Wilson

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Team Hamish Splashpad in Nairn.
Team Hamish Splashpad in Nairn.

A COMMUNITY council which alleges High Life Highland (HLH) and Highland Council have made unauthorised charges to Nairn’s Common Good Fund insist they can now confirm their claims.

In a Freedom of Information request to HLH, Nairn West and Suburban community councillor Joan Noble had it confirmed that the Nairn Links and former Nairn paddling pool (now the Team Hamish Splashpad) is the only one of hundreds of leisure facilities in the Highlands which pays HLH for its management. HLH delivers leisure and recreation services to communities on behalf of the council under a service delivery contract.

“We have said all along the Highland Council has been picking the pockets of the Nairn Common Good Fund for years and the response to this FOI confirms what we have been saying all along that Nairn is being unfairly treated,” said retired GP Joan Noble.

At their April meeting members agreed when the new council is elected the Nairn members should prioritise an investigation.

“Not only does this need to stop and stop now, we will be demanding between £70,000 and £80,000 be repaid for charges made to the Common Good since 2011 because HLH is already paid by Highland Council (HC) under the contract. HC have paid for this service at the paddling pool and splashpad through a service agreement between HC and HLH, then HLH have then been charging the Nairn Common Good Fund. This has meant that HLH has been paid twice.”

She said the contract agreed in 2011 and updated in 2017 showed a list of hundreds of facilities managed by HLH which are funded by an annual service fee from Highland Council.

“Nairn Links and paddling pool is the only one on the entire list to pay HLH for management.

“Seven of these facilities were identified as Common Good assets. Even [some] privately-owned facilities... pay nothing to HLH for management. I have also received confirmation through an FOI request that HLH are unable to produce any signed and validated agreement between HLH and Nairn Common Good Fund that would legitimise these fees.”

Highland Council has defended its policy. It said: “There is a formal agreement between Nairn Common Good Fund and the council for the operation of the splashpad with the council asking its wholly-owned charity HLH to operate the facility on its behalf through the Service Delivery Contract.

“Prior to HLH’s establishment, the council used to operate the former paddling pool directly with the Common Good Fund paying the council to do this. After it was established, HLH was asked to continue, supporting the council and Nairn CGF by staffing the paddling pool for the benefit and enjoyment of people of Nairn without charge to them. This has been continued through a new agreement for the operation of the Splash Pad with the arrangements having been agreed through the Nairnshire Area Committee.”

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