Res­i­dents urged to stand for com­mu­nity coun­cil

The Oban Times - - NEWS - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

A VETERAN Fort Wil­liam com­mu­nity coun­cil­lor who served for more than 20 years has spo­ken of her dis­ap­point­ment at the ab­sence of a com­mu­nity coun­cil in the High­lands’ largest town.

As the High­land Coun­cil makes a last- ditch at­tempt to at­tract new blood to re­vive Fort Wil­liam Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, pre­vi­ous mem­bers have been talk­ing to The Oban Times.

Elec­tions for Fort Wil­liam Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, which folded ear­lier this year af­ter what mem­bers de­scribed as a ‘feel­ing of not be­ing lis­tened to’ and a strug­gle to re­cruit new mem­bers, will be held on Tues­day Novem­ber 15.

A High­land Coun­cil spokesper­son said the com­mu­nity coun­cil would ‘go into abeyance’ if no new mem­bers were elected.

Pa­tri­cia Jor­dan, who re­signed in Jan­u­ary af­ter 23 years as both chair­woman and sec­re­tary, said: ‘I think it is dis­ap­point­ing that a town the size of Fort Wil­liam is one of the ar­eas in the High­lands that does not have a com­mu­nity coun­cil.

‘I re­signed in Jan­u­ary this year af­ter 23 years – far too long – and was sad­dened that we could not re­cruit more new mem­bers as we do have a very vi­brant com­mu­nity with a lot go­ing on.’

Pa­tri­cia noted the many suc­cesses of the com­mu­nity coun­cil and its in­flu­ence on plan­ning and ma­jor de­vel­op­ments, such as the new Belford Hos­pi­tal.

She said: ‘Fort Wil­liam com­mu­nity coun­cil was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up the part­ner­ship of Fort Wil­liam and area com­mu­nity coun­cils (CC), which in­cluded In­ver­lochy and Tor­lundy, Caol and Kil­mallie CCs, to en­sure we were all look­ing at a big­ger pic­ture in the in­ter­est of all the com­mu­ni­ties. This does not work if you do not have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Fort Wil­liam, es­pe­cially when it comes to plan­ning and devel­op­ment is­sues.’

Fail­ure to elect new mem­bers has led the High­land Coun­cil to hold fur­ther nominations.

Alex Far­quhar, who was also a mem­ber of the Fort Wil­liam CC for nine years, said there were two rea­sons a com­mu­nity coun­cil still hadn’t been formed. He said: ‘First, there was no ef­fort made to pub­lish the elec­tion for a new com­mu­nity coun­cil a few months ago and I think it’s hap­pened again this time. And, sec­ondly, peo­ple aren’t sure what the ef­fects of be­ing a mem­ber re­ally are or how much at­ten­tion of­fi­cials will re­ally pay. Peo­ple strug­gle to be­lieve that what they do will have much ef­fect.

‘That’s the rea­son the com­mu­nity coun­cil folded. There was a gen­eral feel­ing noth­ing we did was lis­tened to in In­ver­ness.’

How­ever, Alex con­firmed he would be putting his name for­ward for elec­tion again this year stress­ing the im­por­tance of the group’s role. He added: ‘The town needs a group of peo­ple to look at what the coun­cil is do­ing and mon­i­tor pro­pos­als. With­out peo­ple look­ing at what it [the coun­cil] is do­ing, there is a dan- ger things will hap­pen with­out peo­ple know­ing what’s go­ing on, a dan­ger that pro­pos­als about our town are put in place by In­ver­ness and lo­cal peo­ple don’t know any­thing about it.’

Pa­tri­cia also of­fered a help­ing hand to new mem­bers. She said: ‘If peo­ple are put off by what they think is too dif­fi­cult, then train­ing, ad­vice and sup­port is avail­able from High­land Coun­cil and I would be more than happy to as­sist a new com­mu­nity coun­cil in the tran­si­tional stages. Fort Wil­liam needs a com­mu­nity coun­cil.’

To be­come a mem­ber of Fort Wil­liam Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, down­load a nom­i­na­tion form from the coun­cil’s web­site. The dead­line is 4pm on Novem­ber 15 and elec­tions will take place on December 15.

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