Riddell-Carre apologises for ‘opt out’ error

SELKIRKSHIRE councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre has apologised after admitting there was little chance Hawick could “opt out” of the controversial Common Good Fund proposals.

The Conservative group leader and chairperson of the Common Good Working Group was previously adamant the final decision on participation in a group investment strategy would rest with the respective Common Good members.

In a letter to the Hawick News she said: “The strategy will be consulted upon and if Hawick does not want to share in it then it needn’t.”

The letter was in response to stinging criticism made by Hawick Provost Zandra Elliot, who opposed the plans.

Councillor Riddell-Carre went as far as to write: “Come on Zandra, please listen to what is actually being said.”

However, she performed a U-turn this week and apologised to councillors after it was revealed that non participation was virtually impossible.

It is understood the problems arise through technical and financial issues which surround the legality and status of the Common Good Funds in the Borders.

As they are registered as one charity, a new charity would have to be set up and a new fund manager appointed.

Councillor Riddle-Carre said: “The Hawick councillors could technically go it alone. In reality the rest of us councillors, all of whom are quasi-trustees of all the Common Goods, would be unlikely to let Hawick waste its resources in setting up a separate entity.

“What would be the point of paying a separate lot of professional fees? It’s far cheaper to have your own percentage of a group fund which is exactly where Hawick is at the moment.

“So on Tuesday I said to a meeting of councillors that I didn’t think Hawick really could go it alone in practice and apologised for getting that wrong.”