Errors made over Bankhill land transfer

Berwick Town Council has revealed that mistakes were made in a land transfer in 2014.

Monday, 23rd April 2018, 9:34 am
The redeveloped Bankhill toilets, now an ice cream hut (left to right) David Blackburn (tenant), Ian Douglas (Berwick Preservation Trust Vice Chairman) Isabel Hunter (Town Mayor), Michael Richardson (Building Contractor).

The council applied to Northumberland County Council for the transfer of the former toilet block and an adjacent patch of open space on Bankhill. It then transferred it, without payment, to Berwick Preservation Trust.

Concerns about the commercial practices undertaken by the town council were raised by current town clerk Gareth Davies at last week’s budget committee meeting.

He said there was no evidence of a valuation being undertaken, no evidence of the disposal being advertised, no evidence that the issue of State Aid was considered, and that councillors were misadvised by the town clerk telling them that the transfer was permissible without qualification.

Mr Davies, outlining how a repeat could be avoided, said internal controls were now better and governance weaknesses have been addressed He also said the town council should not seek to reverse these transactions.

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He said: “It is my conclusion the town council could have achieved the same conclusion lawfully, if it had followed appropriate processes, provided there were no other bids for the property from interested parties. Clearly one person was interested in the property for commercial purposes, and the property is now tenanted by that person.”