Coun­cil­lors plea for end to crit­i­cisms on so­cial me­dia

The Oban Times - - Front Page - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­

‘SCATHING’ com­ments, ‘false’ state­ments and ‘per­sonal at­tacks’ on coun­cil­lors in Oban, Lorn and the Isles are be­ing made on so­cial me­dia – and they want it to stop.

On the last two oc­ca­sions coun­cil­lors have met in Oban there have been dis­cus­sions about mem­bers of the pub­lic who are quick to crit­i­cise coun­cil­lors on­line.

Coun­cil­lor Mary-Jean Devon ex­plained: ‘We have an open­door pol­icy for lis­ten­ing to what peo­ple have to say. In the case of the Soroba bins, I saw mat­ters were be­ing dis­cussed on so­cial me­dia but the first rep­re­sen­ta­tion I had about is­sues was from res­i­dent Sheila Brown in Fe­bru­ary [the three-weekly bin col­lec­tion started in Novem­ber]. The only other way I have known there is a real is­sue in Soroba is by com­ing across com­ments on Face­book.

‘In one in­stance, there were 61 com­ments about what can be done in Soroba and I had, at that time, only re­ceived one let­ter. As soon as I re­ceived that let­ter I set up a meet­ing with ev­ery­one in­volved in Soroba – ACHA, coun­cil of­fi­cers, the res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion. It is dif­fi­cult to change any­thing if no one con­tacts us. Sheila’s let­ter led to di­rect ac­tion.’

Of the 61 on­line com­ments, some in­cluded ques­tions to coun­cil­lors as well as in­flam­ma­tory com­ments about in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing per­sonal at­tacks about lack of po­lit­i­cal sup­port for res­i­dents in Soroba and be­yond. There were also peo­ple writ­ing un­der the names of coun­cil­lors crit­i­cis­ing col­leagues.

Mrs Devon con­tin­ued: ‘Per­haps it would be much fairer if peo­ple sought to speak to their elected mem­bers about is­sues be­fore mak­ing state­ments on Face­book that are mis­lead­ing.’

Marri Mal­loy, chair­woman of Oban Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, added: ‘We tried to give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to speak about prob­lems in Soroba and set up a meet­ing. We had asked peo­ple to come along and speak to us about the rats, the bins or any other con­cerns that they might have but not one per­son turned up.

‘It is very im­por­tant for peo­ple to have their say in a fo­rum where some­thing can be done. That will not hap­pen on Face­book.’

Coun­cil­lor Roddy McCuish ad­dressed the pub­lic at the area com­mit­tee meet­ing held last week on the same is­sue.

He said: ‘The peo­ple of Soroba will know the so­lu­tion to the bin prob­lem them­selves. We know that but we would like an op­por­tu­nity [to help] be­fore we are con­demned.’

When asked about what sanc­tions were placed on op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors crit­i­cis­ing col­leagues, Mr McCuish said: ‘There is noth­ing we can do. There is a whip sys­tem for peo­ple in po­lit­i­cal par­ties but oth­er­wise we can­not do any­thing.’

Soroba res­i­dent Sheila Brown said: ‘I learned a valu­able les­son con­cern­ing the bins sit­u­a­tion in Soroba. If you have any con­cerns or com­plaints that you want to raise with Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, ACHA or your coun­cil­lors, put it in writ­ing – whether it’s snail mail or email, don’t rely on phone calls.’

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