Area set to lose out in ward shake-up
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.