Calls for Kabin investigation

Local councillor Russell Imrie at The Kabin in Loanhead , which is closing imminently.
Local councillor Russell Imrie at The Kabin in Loanhead , which is closing imminently.

Councillors have called for an investigation into the running of Loanhead community centre, which faces closure just seven years after opening.

After receiving a briefing about the Kabin at last week’s Midlothian Council meeting, councillors called on the Scottish Government and the Kabin’s main backers, Big Lottery, to carry out an immediate investigation into why the purpose-built centre has run out of money – despite running costs for the first five years being covered thanks to £294,000 of a £720,000 lottery grant.

Speaking at the meeting, local councillor Russell Imrie (Lab) said: “I do think something has gone terribly wrong.

The buck stops with the board of that organisation. It seemed to go from one meeting to the next as if everything was tickety boo.

“Staff have lost jobs as a result of this. Community engagement with unemployed youth in this area has now gone. It’s quite sad to see that something that could have been absolutely fantastic for the community – and was at first – has come to this stage in seven years. It’s unbelievable.”

Cllr Pauline Winchester (Con) backed the calls for an investigation and said she had spoken to ex-staff who raised concerns with the board “time and time again” but told “they weren’t able to do anything, or chose not to”.

Cllr Kelly Parry (SNP) called on support for the Kabin and slammed what she called a “witch hunt” against the board.

“I have never in my time as a councillor heard a recommendation like that,”she said. “I find that very vindictive and strange.”

Commenting on the Kabin’s running costs, Midlothian Council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) said: “I find it amazing that the statement from the Kabin says ‘for a number of years the Kabin has in effect been living beyond its means’.

“Something has gone catastrophically wrong here.”

Kabin chairman Colin Beattie told the Advertiser he helped save the centrefrom closure when he got involved in 2014.

He added: “I have noted the call for an investigation into mismanagement in order to discover where the original funding went.

While this happened before the time of myself and the current directors, I am sure that Cllr Russell Imrie, who was a director from the beginning of the project up to the time it actually ran out of money, will be able to throw some light on this important issue.”

Mr Beattie said talks had been held with another local organisation with a “well funded alternative business model” about taking over, allowing Kabin users to continue at the Loanhead facility.