Saturday, March 02, 2013

Nairn Community Councils up for it but are Glenurquhart Road asking the wrong questions?

Brian Stewart reported at the Westies CC meeting at the beginning of the week that since it is now over a year since all the Community Councils were reorganised across the Highlands, the Highland Council were now obliged to review and evaluate the new Community Council scheme. To this effect they had sent out a questionaire. Brian was decidedly unimpressed by the document received however and he said:

“I find it profoundly unexciting, I don’t think it actually grips the fundamental question which is how effectively are Community Councils working. It’s asking about the small print of the procedures when what it should be addressing, in these changed times, when money is tight and the Council isn’t doing all the things it used to be able to do: there is a kind of assumption or an expectation that Community Councils will be doing different things or more things and that is not the sort of questions this evaluation is asking. It’s not asking what kind of a different role a Community Council might have to take on.”

We saw recently how Nairn’s three Community Councils gave the planners a powerful message/warning about Nairn South at their recent joint meeting. If they continue to successfully work together at that level then Nairn will have something with the gravitas and moral authority that the former District Council had but of course with little or no power. However, with the whispers of a “localism” agenda coming out of Holyrood,  that may change. It has to really – what is the point of Independence or Devolution Max in Edinburgh if communities like Nairn continue to be ruled from places like Inverness? For Scotland to thrive its communities must have more freedom too.

Nairn Suburban CC have been trailblazers when it comes to organising initiatives in the Community, they have arranged litter-clean ups in the area (including the Academy), organised a snow-clearing rota across their patch and grasp every available opportunity to use their meagre resources or other available funding to improve community life. River CC recently completed their environmental project between the Sewage and A96 bridges and will follow this up over the next few years with further measures. River are also leading the way in lobbying for more recycling facilities in the town. They envisage a facility that would mean reused goods being sold to local people thus possibly creating employment. The Westies have been the most proactive by their high-profile support of NICE in seeking a solution to rectify the problem of the empty former Social Work Buildings and they continue to articulate the community’s concerns on the traffic situation  in Nairn in a very succinct fashion.

Together the three Councils seem to be edging gingerly towards an effective, ad hoc mechanism of working together for the benefit of Nairn. Even more promising perhaps was the recent meeting of Nairnshire’s six Community Councils. So, indeed, Glenurquhart Road are not as pro-active in assisting all this as they could be. We have Community Councillors in Nairnshire who are willing to take more responsibility and beyond them lies a huge constituency of citizens that are willing to pitch in and help them. Highland Council please listen to the pleas from Nairn for more democracy and assist in whatever way you can. Challenging times are already with us and things may become far worse - communities will have to help themselves and those in high places should make sure that any obstacles to that are removed.  

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