LOCAL DEMOCRACY IN ACTION (Or should that be inaction?/
letter columns continue to reflect a Borders Council Spat with the SNP moaning about their lack of influence within the recently elected council. And the Lib Dems flexing their muscles having failed to make much headway against the SNP elsewhere in Scotland
SIR, - As a committed Liberal Democrat I am a firm believer in politics within local government to ensure clear policy direction and cohesive decision making, however, there have always been some no-go areas for party politics; namely local festivals, decisions on planning applications and community councils.
Therefore I find it most unfortunate that Councillor Bill Herd has, in his first month as the new council group leader of the SNP, singled out these matters for petty posturing. In doing so he has managed to be economical with the truth in a manner which does not bode well for encouraging confidence in elected representatives at any level.
The discussion regarding representation at the building and development control committee centred around the fact that there are now only 11 wards in SBC and each ward is represented by at least one local member on the committee, something which was not the case previously when there were 34 wards.
Planning is a quasi-judicial role for councillors who can only take into account written representations and assess those against current planning policies.
Councillors on the committee have to take account of all views but ultimately also have to make a decision. It is open to all elected members to seek a place on the committee; Councillor Herd did not put his name forward for nomination.
With regard to the letter which was sent to community councils asking what arrangements for SBC councillors’ attendance at their meetings would suit them best – that is appropriate consultation following the recent change to multi-member wards.
The reasoning behind this, which was discussed at the Tweeddale Area Committee in May, was to ensure clear lines of communication and prevent duplication.
The unanimous decision to consult community councils and to ascertain their views on this matter was taken by the committee, which includes Councillor Herd as party to that decision. So perhaps rather than waiting for matters to “come to his attention” he should pay a bit more attention in the meetings he attends, and if he feels it is inappropriate to consult with community councils on a matter which affects them perhaps then he should say so at the time.
Personally I believe that community councils are the front line of local democracy and their views should be sought as part of the democratic decision making process.
And before making a big noise about SNP councillors attending every community council meeting, Councillor Herd would do well to remember that community councils are constitutionally non-party political.
Finally, if Councillor Herd’s initial efforts are indicative of the level of debate from the opposition at the council then I think he has ably demonstrated why it would serve no purpose to return to a committee system.
Community Councils forefront of local democracy? We wish. The local community council, in my experience over the last seven years, whenever it has attempted to put a community view to the next tier of local government ot to the highheidyins in NStB ,has almost invariably been ignored or overruled-and almost exclusively on planning matters where developers or land owners versus local democracy-no contest. From Kanes Close via the Orchard, with a sideways glance at Edington Mill and the last two out of town skirmishes with Farmers C and N the democrats have emerged bloody and bowed. Only over the Laird's plans to double Paxton has a potential developer been frustrated and that by a widespread popular resistance going much further than the community council, albeit orchestrated by it.
I am sure we await the latest consultation with our Community Council with (a) bated breath and (b) eager anticipation. So far the communication seems snared in the postal strike. Or something.
And if and when we respond with our considered views from the forefront of the local democratic process, will be listened to? Councillors Herd and Bhatia, over to you.
Over and out?
(* Bad if appropriate pun on active participle, awaited)
Labels: Scottish politics, SNP, Spleen venting