Thursday, August 01, 2013

Taking grass cutting back under local control - Tommy and River CC's response to the Subbies and the Westies

Gurnites will recall the recent open letter from the Chair of Suburban Community Council, Dick Youngson, setting out his concerns about the River Community initiative to hopefully take the grass cutting in Nairn back under local stewardship - That Gurn article is available here.  The Gurn has since then  received a copy of Tommy's response to Dick dated yesterday the 31st of July. Readers will recall that Dick stated that the West Community Council mirrored the views of his organisation, he was also of a mind that there was a need for further discussion involving NICE and other groups in the town before any further steps were to be taken. 

"Dear Dick,                                                                                                            
Grass Cutting in Nairn

It is unfortunate that you chose to write an open letter on this matter rather than contact us directly by phone or in person as is common practice among Nairn’s Community Councils. On this occasion then, I will respond formally on behalf of the Nairn River Community Council. (NRCC)

NRCC submitted an expression of interest in taking local control of the maintenance of all local spaces in May. In it we made the point that we had already invited Nairn Suburban and Nairn West Community Councils to join with us. We have spoken to NSCC and NWCC about it. We are not currently in a position to set out a proposal because we have yet to hold detailed discussions with Highland Council officers which we imagine might clarify a whole range of legal, logistical and economical issues. Having been invited to do so, we anticipate arranging initial discussions when HC staff is available some time later in August.

Our expression of interest was submitted as part of Highland Council’s Community Challenge Fund. From the content of your letter, both Suburban and West Community Councils clearly feel that it is not the business of a community council. To quote your words “It is not the role of the Community Councils to take over the Nairn-wide grass cutting contracts and to become employers….”

We disagree. Community Councils have four key roles, defined in the Scheme of Establishment, and two of them are crucial to us. It is our job “to represent the views of the community to HC and other public bodies”, and “to act to further the interests of their communities”.

We represent more than half the population of Nairn and hear often of their concerns at the quality of public ground maintenance and their frustration at the lack of local control over HC priorities. Too often constituents draw our attention to delays in clearing unsightly undergrowth, managing tree damage or control of invasive species, to mention just three examples. All of us are aware of the demands placed on HC resources and the influence on their deployment because we are competing with many other demands.

The Community Challenge Fund has been set up “to encourage community empowerment….to explores new ways of delivering services at local level.” Highland Council says “Interest is welcome from all community groups such as Community Councils….”The Challenge Fund therefore provides us with a tremendous opportunity to DO something constructive to improve the lot of our community. We are tired of constantly talking about and relaying people’s complaints and mainly scratching the surface (your right, the issue of grass cutting comes up regularly on all the Community Council agenda), so here’s a chance to roll up our sleeves and act.

We are realistic enough to appreciate that the responsibilities are substantial and the legal, logistical and management issues challenging. However, we have received widespread support from constituents and the public support of at least two of our Nairn Highland Councillors. We believe therefore we must do everything we can to try and make the most of this Challenge Fund Opportunity.
We have invited you to join with us in this venture and we would welcome it you were to change your view on the role of the Community Councils and support us in taking it forward.

Yours sincerely

Tommy Hogg
Chair,  Nairn River Community Council"

1 comment:

Graisg said...

@ Honest - interesting points but it is worth bearing in mind that the Chair signs the letter on the behalf of River Community Council and not as an individual.