Comar : Job losses ‘just halted, not saved’
A FORMER member of the shadow board of the Argyll arts and culture organisation, Comar, described the past six weeks like ‘pulling teeth’.
Speaking at Mull community council last week, four members of the shadow board tasked with taking back some control of the Mull-based businesses, An Tobar and Mull Theatre, said their job had been an uphill struggle.
Last month on August 3 at a public meeting, there was almost unanimous opposition to plans by the publicly-funded Comar to sack the two men who had set up An Tobar and Mull Theatre.
The meeting moved a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the board of Comar after hearing allegations of a lack of accountability and concerns of a mass walk- out of island representatives on its committee. Dawn Reade, who chairs the shadow board of Comar, told the community council: ‘The clock has been stopped on job losses. But has is only halted the process - the jobs have not been saved.’
Discussing the progress of the shadow board in learning about the finances and governance of Comar, Mull-based councillor Mary-Jean Devon said: ‘I have to say I admire and respect the shadow board - I don’t know where they are getting their patience from.
‘I walked away from the shadow board as I felt my presence threatened Comar and I only want this matter to be resolved.
‘My personal opinion is that the community has been drip-fed information by Comar that it thinks that we, as a community, need.
‘It has been like pulling teeth at times. There is very little information available. Being on the back foot all the time must be exhausting for the shadow board.
‘Comar has all the information and it is not being passed on.
‘From what little I understand and have been told about the finances, it might be the point of no return very soon.
‘My main worry is that the community will begin to boycott Comar. Something positive for the community has to come out of this.’
Neil Hutton, a member of the shadow board, said: ‘We are a group of individuals acting together to implement the mandate of the public meeting.
‘The shadow board has been working since August 3 to gain recognition, and to bring about its objectives.
‘So far we have gained recognition from Creative Scotland after a meeting with their chief executive, gained recognition from the remaining Comar board and held three meetings with them to date, with more planned.
‘We have had the redundancy and restructure halted pending discussions and worked on opening up the membership and replacing the existing board with an elected board.
‘While the shadow board is making progress towards its goals, we also have to make it clear that Comar is facing serious financial difficulties.
‘Those difficulties started with a 71 per cent grant award. But it’s got worse since. Comar has continued to overspend, while failing to raise what they expected from other sources.
‘We may stop these redundancies, introduce membership and a more accountable board, but we can’t print money.
‘Comar is facing very difficult times and there will be no easy answers. Those on the shadow board are giving generously of their time in the hope of saving An Tobar and Mull Theatre.
‘We would ask that the community council recognise this and support our efforts in whatever way you can,’ he added.
The community council offered its support to the shadow board.
A Comar spokeswoman said: ‘Comar is working constructively with the shadow board and has shared a considerable amount of information with them at a series of meetings.
‘Comar appointed independent consultants, CEIS, who have consulted members of the shadow board and the local community. CEIS will be sharing their report with the shadow board tomorrow, (September 18).
‘Some budget areas are showing an overspend and Comar’s reserves will reduce as a result. Full accounts for the year to March 2015 will be available at the Comar AGM in November.’
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said: ‘There must be new directors chosen by the community and there must be a plan acceptable to the community which includes a withdrawal of the redundancies, an open membership base and a new approach to serving Mull and a wider area.’
KEYNOTE: The Misha MacPherson trio are one of the many
bands to play at An Tobar