Com­mu­ni­ties up in arms over bound­ary change pro­pos­als

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

THE Bound­ary Com­mis­sion has ‘to­tally ig­nored’ Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford’s wish to stay in the Oban North and Lorn ward, ac­cord­ing to the com­mu­nity coun­cil’s chair­man.

At a meet­ing in Kilmelford Vil­lage Hall last week, Nigel Mitchell gave his an­ual AGM re­port and listed ‘one un­pleas­ant piece of news’, namely the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion for Scot­land’s fifth elec­toral re­view.

It rec­om­mends chang­ing ward bound­aries and re­duc­ing the num­ber of Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil­lors by three to 33, in time for lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions in May 2017.

It pro­poses trans­fer­ring Lu­ing, Seil, Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford, Avich and Kilchre­nan Com­mu­nity Coun­cils, plus the east Lochawe­side sec­tion of Glenorchy and In­nishail, from the Oban North and Lorn ward to the Mid-Ar­gyll ward cen­tred on Lochgilp­head.

Dur­ing the com­mis­sion’s con­sul­ta­tion, in Oc­to­ber 2015 Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford Com­mu­nity Coun­cil ar­gued the ‘lu­di­crous’ changes would break lo­cal links.

‘ We feel that the only con­sid­er­a­tion has been num­bers,’ sec­re­tary An­toinette Mitchell wrote. ‘Over the years we have built up a rap­port with our Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil­lors, be­cause Oban is our cen­tre of in­flu­ence and coun­cil­lors have lived in our com­mu­nity.

‘We could not ex­pect to have a sim­i­lar work­ing or so­cial re­la­tion­ship with coun­cil­lors who may well live more than 40 miles from us. They could not pos­si­bly be ex­pected to know our com­mu­ni­ties or un­der­stand our needs and prob­lems.

‘We are very con­cerned. Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil has ob­jected no less than four times to th­ese ward changes, and we un­der­stand no com­mu­nity in Ar­gyll and Bute wants them but have all been ig­nored. What chance do we as the lit­tle peo­ple in small ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties have of be­ing lis­tened to when we say we do not want this ward change? Where is this peo­ple em­pow­er­ment the govern­ment keeps re­fer­ring to in its poli­cies?’

De­spite th­ese ap­peals, the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion is stick­ing to its orig­i­nal plan, re­vealed in its fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions sub­mit­ted to Scot­tish min­is­ters for ap­proval in May. The Scot­tish govern­ment can­not now amend the pro­pos­als, but only ac­cept or re­ject them out­right. At Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford Com­mu­nity Coun­cil’s June meet­ing, Ms Mitchell re­acted: ‘On this is­sue there is no split in the com­mu­nity. Ev­ery­body wants to stay in this ward. It is not com­mu­nity em­pow­er­ment if you’re not lis­ten­ing.’

Oban North and Lorn Coun­cil­lor Kieron Green com­mented: ‘It’s a num­ber crunch­ing ex­er­cise. They just want to add con­stituen­cies to­gether so they have the right num­ber for each ward.

‘Ar­gyll and Bute is 2,000 peo­ple per coun­cil­lor, but they want, in an ideal world, to have 2,800 peo­ple per coun­cil­lor.’ In a new let­ter, Ms Mitchell has ap­pealed to lo­cal SNP MSPs to urge the Scot­tish govern­ment to re­ject the pro­pos­als, writ­ing: ‘The Bounda- ry Com­mis­sion has cho­sen to to­tally ig­nore our com­mu­nity’s re­quest not to be­come part of mid-Ar­gyll.

‘Nor­mally when our com­mu­nity de­bates se­ri­ous is­sues there are a pro­por­tion of the com­mu­nity for and against said pro­posal.

‘How­ever, in this case I can say that all mem­bers of the Kil­nin­ver and Kilmelford Com­mu­nity Coun­cil are against the as­sim­i­la­tion into Mid-Ar­gyll, and as far as we can as­cer­tain there is not one mem­ber of the com­mu­nity whom we have widely con­sulted who wishes for this lu­di­crous pro­posal to go ahead.’

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