Councillor resigns – Harris house sale was “the last straw”

Grant Fulton lamented a "lack of information"Grant Fulton lamented a "lack of information"
Grant Fulton lamented a "lack of information"
A Harris councillor, Grant Fulton, has resigned citing a range of concerns over the management of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and “lack of information to elected members about decisions being made”.

The controversial decision by the Comhairle to approve the sale of a house in Tarbert by Hebridean Housing Partnership was “the last straw” for Mr Fulton while he was also frustrated by decisions around the distribution of local funding.

Mr Fulton had tabled an amendment to the annual distribution of Crown Estate money which was due to come before Wednesday’s meeting of the full Comhairle. He wanted to maintain the level of ward funding in which councillors have an input on local priorities.

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However, he said on Tuesday evening that a revised report from chief executive Malcolm Burr “undermined” his amendment with “the clear intent to influence the direction of the vote”.

In a letter to the chief executive, he referred to “an increasingly Stornoway-centric allocation which benefits very few outside the environs of Stornoway” including a “Stornoway cruise ship uplift” of £100,000 from the Crown Estate money.

Mr Burr’s wrote to councillors on Tuesday with the amended recommendations which were being discussed as we went to press.

Prior to Tuesday’s developments, Mr Fulton told the Gazette that he was on the verge of resignation and said the sale by Hebridean Housing Partnership of a house at The Caw in Tarbert, previously reserved for affordable renting, had been “the last straw”.

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HHP’s decision has been extremely controversial in Harris, which faces an extreme housing shortage. Mr Fulton said he had been trying since January to get information but received no reply until he was told last week that the house was being sold.

Mr Fulton said that selling the house on the private market “goes against all the principles I have – I can’t condone that”. He said Harris Development Ltd had put in an offer to keep it in the rented sector.

HHP confirmed that the house has been sold and the Comhairle’s approval was required. The local belief, Mr Fulton said, was that the house was left to the Comhairle on the condition that it was used for social renting.

The HHP statement said: “HHP’s ownership of the Caw arose from the transfer of the property from the Comhairleas part of the overall Stock Transfer in 2006.

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“Our records do not show that the Comhairle passed on any title restrictions at the point of transfer. One of the conditions in the Transfer Agreement is that if we plan to sell a transferred property (except in the case of Right to Buy) we must first obtain the approval of the Comhairle as 95 per cent of net receipts go back to the Comhairle.

“The property has been sold and our understanding is that it will be used as the purchaser’s main residence”.