The convener of Bo’ness Community Council went to Falkirk councillors last week with a plea to treat her town fairly – and ask why Bo’ness was getting such a small share of a £2 million windfall.
Members of the community council were outraged when they saw details of how Falkirk Council will spend the Scottish Government cash, that must be spent on town centre regeneration projects.
Convener Madelene Hunt, who was also there to represent Bo’net networking group, claimed that Bo’ness’ share of the cash had dwindled – and that at one point the town had been promised £1 million to improve access to its library and install free Wi-Fi in the town centre.
Mrs Hunt noticed that Bo’ness will actually receive around £500,000 worth of works in a report that was presented to councillors at a meeting of the executive.
She told councillors: “I was quite concerned when the agenda came out because originally we had asked for £500,000 – then we got told it was being divided between just three town centres, so we asked for it to be split three ways which would be £660,000.
“Then we were led to believe we were getting £1 million – so when this came out it was a great disappointment.”
She wanted to know how the money had been allocated and why so little had ended up going to Bo’ness.
“Why once again is Falkirk getting the bulk of the money and little towns get a wee something to keep them quiet?” she asked.
“People asked how would you spend £1 million in Bo’ness? Well, quite easily actually. I could spend £10 million!”
But council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said that the funding was time sensitive and it needed projects that were ready to move quickly.
She said: “Projects were discussed with the communities and the funding was split based on these projects.
“This wasn’t about equality, it was about what would make an impact in each town centre.”
Of the money Bo’ness will get, £200,000 will be used to make its library’s community rooms more accessible; £16,000 to install WiFi ; and £280,000 improve properties on South Street and East Partings – all projects that had been agreed as priorities by the community.
Councillor David Alexander asked Mrs Hunt if she accepted that “she wasn’t offered a figure, she was offered a programme, which was going ahead”.
He said: “The library, the infrastructure such as the WiFi, the work on the empty shops – can you confirm all of these are going ahead?”
She replied: “Yes, but we’ve had very limited communication since our first meeting.”
Mrs Hunt said the group was also looking for premises that could be used by community groups as well as people who work from home to be able to network.
Director of development Rhona Geisler said the decision was very much based on delivering practical projects that were priorities for their communities.
She said: “Falkirk is the largest of our town centres, it has the longest list of projects and if you look at that list we haven’t gone anywhere near them all.”
Grangemouth’s share will be used to demolish longstanding vacant and unlettable commercial properties as well as provide WiFi to Charlotte Dundas and Grangemouth town centre.
Falkirk’s share of the cash will be used for upgrade car park ticket machines and improve signage. It will also introduce safety improvements for pedestrians at Newmarket Street and Lint Riggs. The money will also provide luggage lockers at Falkirk Grahamston Station to support tourism. Falkirk town centre will also get Wi-Fi.