Residents urged to stand for community council
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.