Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nairn's community councils: the options

The Gurn didn't arrive in time to catch all discussion on this issue at last night's River Community Council meeting but it seems there now exists the possibility that there may soon be an initiative to revive the Nairn West Community Council. Up until now it had seemed that the future held three possibilities.
1) Status Quo - two councils and no representation for the West area
2) West gets divided between Suburban and River
3) The Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council comes into being
Now we may soon have option 4) The return to three Community Councils.
The Gurn is a great fan of option 3 and reckons that is what most folk would opt for but if there is a call to restart the West CC then obviously the authorities would have to consider it. The Gurn would say however that this is a good time for fans of a single community council for the town of Nairn to raise their heads above the parapet. The unscientific poll over on the Gurn on Sunday indicates that there may be massive support for the proposal but of course we may be wrong.
More news views and analysis on last nights River CC meeting later today - Breaking news, Highland Council Convener Sandy Park was in attendance last night.


Anonymous said...

Some very welcome signs of an evolution in local thinking.

Worth pointing out that these options are not all mutually exclusive. The status quo (1) is obviously unsatisfactory, as it leaves numerous Nairn residents without a voice, and imposes an extra load on the two CCs which are already hard-pressed to cope with the issues in their own immediate neighbourhoods.

For that reason, option (2) is no solution. Nairn would still have divided representation, two hard-worked CCs with different priorities, and so no coherent voice.

But (3) and (4) both need thinking about. They are not alternatives, but could lead in the same direction. The fact that according to the Nairnshire both existing CCs have now come out publicly in favour of a unified council for the town is a hugely positive move. But legally and procedurally, it's a major step for Highland Council. It would require a virtual rewrite of the existing CC framework and electoral rules.

So resurrection of Nairn West (option 4) - which requires no new legislation, but just needs people to "petition" for it and individuals willing to serve - could be a sensible step. This would effectively be walking before trying to run. But it would take things a lot further down the road to the eventual goal.

The point is that if a revived Nairn West CC were to agree with the existing two CCs (as they surely would...) that a unified CC for the Burgh was a desirable outcome, then an agreed proposal for a merger of the three CCs as willing partners would be both irresistible and easier for the Council to broker, as the consensus would already be there.

Perhaps the tectonic plates are indeed shifting and some real progress might now be made...

Anonymous said...

Having a single voice for Nairn certainly makes a lot of sense - at present the representation for Nairn is terribly divided.

Also, these councils do not seem to communicate directly to the people it represents - instead relying on the Nairnshire to provide any information on the results of these meetings.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but it leaves me confused as to which council is supposed to be representing my family, and what decisions they are actually making.

I personally think somewhere in these developments, it would be beneficial to have a greater degree of accountability and communication as a remit for moving forward with any changes.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on the CCs, Anonymous Brian. You said

"...these councils do not seem to communicate directly to the people it represents - instead relying on the Nairnshire to provide any information on the results of these meetings."

" would be beneficial to have a greater degree of accountability and communication."

You're right that accountability is important. But on communication, bear in mind that CC members are all volunteers, and the CCs have very limited funding (and at present little resources or capacity to run websites, produce newsletters, distribute minutes or send direct mailshots!).

The meetings are advertised, public and open to all. In all fairness, it really is down to residents to make the effort to attend and participate - not sit at home and wait to be told what's happening...

Anonymous said...

Nairn community councils are divided, and up until now for very good reason, namely so that local areas of Nairn had their own representation and voice. This is devolved representation on a local scale and has in the past worked very well.
However with the increasing number of council functions being moved to Inverness, and the enormity of some of the issues which Nairn faces it would seem logical to me for the CCs to join in a united front of some sort.
Sorry to hear Brian that you don’t know as to what CC represents yourself and your family. Maybe you are new to the area or have only recently become interested in the affairs of the CC?
I’m sure you would be very welcome at the appropriate CC meeting, and as far as I know minutes are produced, and procedures often reported in both the Nairnshire and the Gurn

Graisg said...

Yes, cost in wages per community councillor? £0 per annum to the public purse. Real good value for money. Some of them have been at it for years, keeping alive representation at this level of government in Nairn through thick and thin!

Anonymous said...

"The meetings are advertised, public and open to all. In all fairness, it really is down to residents to make the effort to attend and participate - not sit at home and wait to be told what's happening..."

I actually disagree - if someone is going to claim to represent me, they need to communicate with me. I don't think the meetings are well advertised, nor is the current structure of these councils.

That's not intended to sound like a direct criticism of the councils or it's members themselves - I know there are a lot of positive things happening - I just think there's a communication problem.

For example, which areas do the river and suburban councils represent? People within these groups may take it as a given, but I think there's room for improved communications.

Tell you what - email me and I'll get websites set up for every single council and community group in Nairn. My company does web development and marketing for all size of business, and I'm absolutely happy to volunteer business services for free if it helps bring Nairn into the 21st century. Already doing it for a few groups already, so drop me an email and I can get started with getting these councils online in whatever form they are comfortable with.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

Tell you what Brian… maybe you would be so good as to let the Gurn know when Nairn Community Councils are on-line, meanwhile the rest of us will just carry on as we were if you don’t mind
As Graisg has stated, folk put a lot of effort and time into Community Councils, their meetings are not on-line forums but real live events which you would be welcome to attend and participate in. I take it you have not done so already?
This may seem terribly old fashioned to yourself and yet another sign that the place you have chosen to live in is so backward that it is maybe still in the 19th century let alone the 21st? but this is how some community events work, if you want to get involved you will have to move away from your computer screen and get out into real world, we still have one here in Nairn.
There is a community in Nairn who will rise to bear arms and give support to the likes of the MacLean Day Centre. I feel very proud and privileged to live in a place like Nairn that can offer that kind of community support, and will do all I can for it.
In this instance Brian you will have to go to the mountain if you want to know more about our Community Councils, many folk manage to do this and I think you will find it works quite well and might even prove rewarding!
That quaint paper portal of Nairn ‘The Nairnshire’ publishes dates of CC meetings.

- not Brian

Anonymous said...

The point no one seems to realise I'm making is that while those involved with the community councils seem well aware of what's going on, how many people outside of these groups actually do?

I have no idea which community council claims to represent me, nor who is on it, nor what their regular meeting schedule is. I'm saying that's because there's a communication issue.

The internet is a powerful communications tool, and available for anyone to use. I've already offered here and on MyNairn to build these very information portals, volunteering my company's time and resources for free to get them set up, so that such information will be more available and accessible for everyone.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

Up until 1995/6 Nairn had its own District Council with 10 Councillors who were all based in Nairn. In 1996 all the District Councils disappeared and the Highland Council emerged. Nairn was split into either 4 or 5 Wards (sorry I can’t remember how many) and each Councillor represented one of these. During the last Highland Council election this changed with the Wards disappearing and the 4 Councillors now all represent the town area.

Since the early seventies (1975?) Community Councils were created with the Nairn River Community Council being the longest established. Overall, there could be 5 Community Councils within the Nairn area, but not all of these are active.

The vacuum left since the demise of the District Council has been filled by the Community Councils, not what these organisations were originally set up for. The role of the Community Councils today is far different from when they were originally started; they are virtually carrying out the same role as the previous District Councillors did but with none of the backup and support. Community Councillors receive no money for what they do, and believe me they do a hell of a lot of work and give up a hell of a lot of their time. They have no offices, no staff, no fancy electronic gadgets such as dedicated mobile phones or computers, even the amount of correspondence they have to deal with is staggering! The amount they receive in funding to carry out the Community Council work is derisory; they are working on a shoestring compared to what Highland Councillors are getting, and this is where the problem lies. Community Councils are being abused and used to provide services and functions far beyond what was ever intended.

Why do they do it? Dedication, delusion, down right stupidity? Who knows but they have a lot to be thanked for, they’ve been plugging away for decades, representing the town and people when no one else could be bothered getting off their arses. It’s easy to criticise and slag them off, maybe they haven’t quite reached the 21st Century with technology, maybe they have too many other things to see to first before they start looking at putting things on the WWW . In an ideal world they would have several members of staff (paid) to do things for them, have nice, fancy offices with nice fancy chairs and filing cabinets (not have to store things in their own houses or garages), and computers and phones etc, etc but they don’t and this doesn’t mean that they don’t provide an important purpose.

For further information and insight into Community Councils have a look at these links.

Anonymous said...

I'm an ideas person - when I become interested in something I start throwing ideas around. Sometimes this is miscommunicated and people think I'm just being critical, when really I'm trying to be constructive.

I really want to state on record that I can seriously appreciate the volunteer work that has gone into the community councils, and I am not denigrating anyone for the effort they have put in.

What I am doing is volunteering my company's services to help get the councils online and fill a communication gap that exists. And in doing so, help raise the overall profile of the community councils.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

I’m puzzled Brian as to your agenda. Your comments in two recent Gurn posts have caused several retorts with what I can only call scathing comments towards you. Either you have no inkling of the views of Nairnites or you enjoy dropping the loaded cat amongst us pigeons. Here are some examples…

Anonymous said...
Where is this myth from that Nairn people are always apathetic and it's only new people who ever do anything? (See Brian comment, Looks like Nairn is getting active at last.) Purely by being new to the town they cannot possibly know everything which has gone on before their arrival, and this is not a dig at 'incomers', but I do wish they would stop trying to 'save' us from ourselves!
11:18 AM
Anonymous said...
Well said!.Rise up all you real Nairnucs.
3:16 PM
Anonymous said...
but I do wish they would stop trying to 'save' us from ourselves!

I too hate the arrogance and indeed ignorance of some people. They want to take Nairn and bash it into some sort of shape that fits their idea of what the town should be. I’m not saying they should be without a voice but at least show respect for Nairnites. We are not Highland f****wits in need of outside wisdom
4:47 PM

I am still prepared to believe that you mean well and your recent offer of getting elements of Nairn on-line is possibly very generous, but I can assure you that had Iain Bain wished the Nairnshire to have a web presence he would have done so. You are not the only web master in the village, and even if you were, the village is now the world for such matters.

Prior to your comments I have never previously heard anyone complain that there was a communication problem with Nairn CCs.

I appreciate that as your business is based on the Internet that you may see being this as a panacea for all, but you have to remember that the web is but one form of communication and I’m sure that Nairn CCs have a list of items they would like to see addressed with being on-line low on their priorities

I am sorry that you find Nairn not to your satisfaction; your views on our Community Councils seem to compound this. Your recent comments on CC Martin Ashford over on your blog MyNairn were very unfair, and completely uncalled for. Martin is genuinely a good person and doesn’t deserve your publicly posted negative opinion based purely on a newspaper article.

If you feel the need to shoot your mouth off with regard to our community in Nairn, please at least spend a little more time getting to know it. As has been said how about attending a CC meeting?

You are right, this is a communication problem, namely that of yourself rapidly alienating your position within Nairn. Maybe you should try bouncing your ideas off a few folk before you start posting them?

Once again what was the start of a very interesting thread has been hijacked with your comments and replies to them, might I suggest that you reserve your remarks for MyNairn?

The issues of the Community Council and MacLean court has shown that the Gurn can have a serious community role and I for one would like to see that continue

Anonymous said...

May I humbly, and sincerely, suggest to Brian that he contacts the various Community Councils and put his very generous offer directly to them for consideration? If he contacts the Highland Council Service point they should be able to provide him with contact details. I think this would be the best way of taking this issue forward.

Graisg said...

Ok Gurnites, one more reply from Brian on the free web site issue, (if he wishes) and then back to comments on the 4 options please!

Anonymous said...

Auldearn Community Council are meeting on Tuesday 17th . I will inform the other members of the Council about Brian's kind offer.

It can be difficult for a Community Council to keep everyone informed, and having a web site can be very useful for people to read agendas , previous minutes etc.....

As an 'out-of-town' Community Council, I don't know if Auldearn would be included in the ' Grand assembly'. Whatever happens though, it may be an idea to have a Nairnshire Community Council general meeting a couple of times a year.


David Brownless

Anonymous said...

I think if I try and reply point by point to the above comments, the danger is that this could turn into an argument, and that will benefit nobody - especially as I think miscommunication and misunderstanding are compounding matters here.

To underline: I have difficulty finding any freely available information relating to the boundaries, membership, and activities, relating to the community councils in Nairn.

I think this therefore represents a communication problem, and while I may not have raised the issue in the most charismatic matter, I have offered to help address it at cost to myself.

Here's something else to think about regarding the internet as a communications platform, though:

800+ signatures protesting the closure of the MacLean facilities have been handed in to the Highland Council. If there had been no internet website called the Gurn, distributing protest materials, organising petitions, and rallying Nairn's online community to become actively involved, I wonder how many signatures would have ended up with the provost?


- Brian

Graisg said...

Hello David, welcome to the Gurn, will you be discussing MacLean Court? Even circulating a petition form?
MacLean court needs Auldearn's help too!

Anonymous said...

Not a problem, David - feel free to contact me for any further information as required.

- Brian

Anonymous said...

I have a petition form in the shop & I'll take it along to the meeting on Tuesday.

Sadly, it's only a meeting of Councillors , rather than a CC meeting but any additional signatures that can be gathered will increase the pressure for common sense to prevail, and , as importantly, increase awareness of the situation. We have a parent council meeting at the school the following week, and I'll make sure we get a few more 'onside' on the evening itself.

David Brownless

Graisg said...

That's excellent David, the Gurn is about to tell the world that they can sign the petition in your shop.

dr-grigor said...

I would have to agree with david (welcome ) I am a long term resident of nairn, and i am totaly unaware of what goes on in our community councils , apart from the odd read in the Nairnshire, bringing the councils on-line is a great step forward, yes i could, if i wished attend some of these meetings and may do so,but i would also be interested in checking out there websites at my own leasure, catching up on all the news, exactly as i do on the gurn, we cannot really escape the internet revoloution so we must embrace it and use it to our advantage and what would be wrong, in that cc having a forum on there site, it would be another platform for folk to bring there issues to the table !

Graisg said...

Back to the MacLean Court issue David, I'm sure the campaigners would be delighted to have a business related input at Liz's meeting on Thursday :-)

Anonymous said...

I spoke to Liz this morning. It would be difficult to attend the meeting but I made it clear that she has the support of the businesses in the town.

Still not too much evidence of support from other elected members yet though.

David Brownless

Anonymous said...

Auldearn Community Council agree that a website is a great idea and we will be contacting Brian in due course to take him up on his kind offer.