Communities up in arms over boundary change proposals
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.’