Area set to lose out in ward shake-up

The Oban Times - - News -

OBAN will lose a coun­cil­lor in 2017 if planned Scot­tish gov­ern­ment changes to ward bound­aries go ahead, writes Steven Rae.

The pro­posed restruc­tur­ing, part of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Bound­ary Com­mis­sion for Scot­land’s elec­toral re­view, takes place ev­ery five years.

The Oban Lorn and the Isles (OLI) area is cur­rently split into two wards - Oban South and the Isles and Oban North and Lorn, both of which have four coun­cil­lors.

Oban North and Lorn will be re­duced to three elected mem­bers if the changes are rat­i­fied, with a large part of the north east of the ward to be­come part of the Mid-Ar­gyll ward.

Un­der the new pro­pos­als, Dal­mally’s sphere of in­flu­ence would trans­fer from Oban to Lochgilp­head. When the changes were an­nounced in June, Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil said it was op­posed in prin­ci­ple to the plan.

The public con­sul­ta­tion stage started on July 30, and will run un­til Oc­to­ber 22 this year. Dun­can MacIn­tyre was first elected as a coun­cil­lor to the area in 1999. He said: ‘I am to­tally against the cur­rent pro­pos­als, both tech­ni­cally and from com­mu­nity per­spec­tive. The pro­posal for a re­duc­tion from four to three mem­bers for Oban North and Lorn with the re-align­ment and re­duc­tion of this ge­o­graphic area misses the point with re­gard to pop­u­la­tion and eco­nomic growth.

‘Scot­tish gov­ern­ment fund­ing (TIF) for de­vel­op­ment is mainly on the North side of Oban, and re­quires max­i­mum sup­port and rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

‘The Bound­ary Com­mis­sion has had dis­cus­sions with the coun­cil and has not ac­cepted the coun­cil’s counter-pro­pos­als and ap­peals for the preser­va­tion of nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ties, to­gether with the re­mote and ru­ral and is­land na­ture of the lo­cal au­thor­ity area.

‘The carve-up of nat­u­ral com­mu­ni­ties in es­sen­tially the same ge­o­graphic area and a re­duc­tion to three mem­bers is hardly proac­tive and is too fo­cussed on a one-size agenda.’

Iain Stewart Ma­cLean, is the short­est-serv­ing coun­cil­lor in the ward, hav­ing been elected in last Oc­to­ber’s by- elec­tion.

He said: ‘This is not a good thing for Oban North and Lorn. The OLI area will see a weak­en­ing of the OLI com­mit­tee, which in­evitably lessens in­flu­ence.

‘The over-rid­ing prin­ci­ple in re­view­ing bound­ary changes is pop­u­la­tion num­bers cou­pled with an in­creased coun­cil­lor work­load in ar­eas of de­pri­va­tion.

‘This ap­proach of ‘one size fits all’ ig­nores two prob­lems in ge­o­graph­i­cally spread, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, travel dis­tances and dif­fer­ent needs for sparser pop­u­la­tions which can be equally time- de­mand­ing.

Coun­cil­lor Elaine Robert­son, who was elected in 2003, said: ‘I have grave con­cerns these pro­posed bound­ary changes will have on our es­tab­lished area and the lo­cal links of the com­mu­ni­ties within it.

‘Oban is the nat­u­ral hub in North Lorn, for ad­min­is­tra­tion, lo­cal coun­cil ser­vices, and larger so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and gath­er­ings.

‘Fur­ther­more, I do not feel the ge­o­graph­i­cal spread of the pro­posed new bound­aries has been fully con­sid­ered. It is a long way from Lochgilp­head to Glen Orchy.

‘I un­der­stand that these changes have been brought for­ward as it was felt that more coun­cil­lors were re­quired to meet the needs of com­mu­ni­ties in de­prived ar­eas and to achieve this, the com­mis­sion has re­duced coun­cil­lors in some author­i­ties.’

Coun­cil­lor Robert­son con­tin­ued: ‘ When I was elected in 2003, there was one coun­cil­lor per ward. North Lorn in­cluded Lis­more, Ap­pin, Ard­chat­tan, Con­nel and part of Taynuilt. Fol­low­ing the re­view prior to the 2007 elec­tions, the ward was in­creased and be­came a four mem­ber ward.

‘ Ward 5 in­cluded all of the North Lorn ward plus the north area of Oban, Gana­van, Dun­beg, all of Taynuilt, Avich and Kilchre­nan, Glenorchy and In­nishail to the east and Kil­more, Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford, Seil and Eas­dale, and Lu­ing to the south.

‘In my opin­ion, the loss of a coun­cil­lor in Oban Lorn and the Isles, may well re­duce this area’s in­flu­ence within the coun­cil. It will af­fect work­ing pat­terns, and the time avail­able to at­tend to lo­cal mat­ters.

‘My con­cerns are about the im­pact the changes will have on the present com­mu­ni­ties within the ward. This con­sul­ta­tion needs to be made as public as pos­si­ble to give ev­ery­one the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond. I em­pha­sise these are my per­sonal views, and not at­trib­ut­able to the coun­cil.’

Com­ments on the pro­pos­als can be sub­mit­ted through the com­mis­sion’s con­sul­ta­tion por­tal web­site at: www. con­sul­ta­tion. lgbc- scot­land. gov.uk, by email to lgbcs@ scot­tish­bound­aries.gov.uk, or in writ­ing to This­tle House, 91 Hay­mar­ket Ter­race, Ed­in­burgh, EH12 SHD.

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