A single council officer – and not elected members - sanctioned an extra £15,000 in financial support for last year’s Borders Book Festival in Melrose.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) response from the council has also revealed that chief financial officer David Robertson, who made the funding decision, received neither gifts nor hospitality after agreeing the one-off payment.
The cash was in addition to the £25,000 which Scottish Borders Council has contributed to the book festival’s programme for each of the last three years.
Mr Roberston also approved another £7,000 as a three-year “business development grant” to the festival which drew record crowds to the gardens of Harmony House in June.
The response confirms that three councillors – leader David Parker and portfolio holders Sandy Aitchison (education) and Stuart Bell (economic development) – were “aware” of the extra funding decision.
The FOI questioner sought to establish if “any council officer or elected member” had benefited from any hospitality or gifts related to the event and was told: “No hospitality or gifts were received by a council officer.”
On top of the £25,000 grant, which helps with venue rental, printing and advertising/design costs, the response explains that the £15,000 was “specifically to promote and increase the [festival’s] dedicated schools programme which provided Borders schoolchildren with access to this important literary event…in this historic year”.
Noting that 1,058 school pupils had attended the 2014 festival, it goes on: “The programme enabled young people aged 16 and 17 who were voting for the first time to engage with the political debate in the Borders.”