There was a good turnout at the River CC AGM in the URC hall last night. Good to see some younger people too and by that this observer means those below the 45-50 range. There were also two people there that looked definitely below 30 years of age to this observer. With this renewed interest perhaps we will see a crowded ballot paper for the Community Council elections this November? Mabye some citizens energised into politics by the referendum last year (YES and NO folk alike) might put themselves forward for election.
Should the drift towards localism signalled by the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill get some serious wind in its sails then a fair amount of gravitas could attach itself to these august but, presently, basically powerless organisations. Well, powerless but if you have something you wish to bring to the attention of the wider world then the Community Council is a good place to head to. So it was last night, for example, with yet another Lochloy resident turning up with road adoption and amenity area grass cutting problems.
Anyway the Chair, Treasurer and Secretary are all back in but the later, Stephanie Whittaker, has signalled that she will be standing down in November. We would urge all gurnites to read the report she prepared and delivered to the meeting last night – there’s too much in there to be selective and it outlines all the work and issues that the River Community Council have been involved in in the last year. These folk that give up their time for free have been busy on our behalf. Copy of the report here.
Chair Tommy Hogg then introduced Cllr Michael Green who spoke in some considerable detail about what he is convinced will be significant events that will return real power to Nairnshire. His double whammy included Highland Council functions and also Health Care. The Gurn spoke to him recently on how he sees a new Nairn Area Committee being formed soon and delivering real power back to the Community – article here. On Health issues he said:
“There’s a lot of changes afoot and I intend to see that Nairn is in the vanguard of these changes. Basically community empowerment made an awful lot of difference. The genie is out of the bottle and its actually looking to return the services to under local control because I think that model really, really works. I want to just announce one or two sort of ideas and suggestions and then get the feedback from folk and they can question some of the ideas that I’ve got. To a large extent as has been evidenced this week: James Arbuthnot came out in the Glasgow Herald and said we are facing very austere times ahead. There’s more cuts coming. We can argue who is causing that, what is happening, but we are where we are and there are cuts that are coming.
We have to manage the services better. The sort of delivery of the services that we have just now is ineffective and there has to be a new model. Now if you look at Health and Social Care there are going to be some very exciting announcements coming out shortly which is all about Nairn being a sort of pilot area for the sort of commissioning of services locally. What that means is that you will get enhanced value. It means it won’t be filtered through Raigmore and all the administrative costs, all the management costs, all the tertiary costs that are taken out and what we are left with in Nairnsire is our disposable income is severely reduced to deliver the front line services that we want. If you are commissioning services locally, you can buy in the services that you want. You can buy in the services that you can’t provide locally, for instance if you need from Raigmore and there are statutory obligations and that will have to be covered but to a large extent your discretional spend will be increased dramatically. If Raigmore can’t provide that you go somewhere else. We want to support Raigmore but we don’t want to subsidise Raigmore. [...]”
Michael continued on how such a health settlement could benefit Nairn. He then moved onto planning and the Nairn South fiasco and the difference and the effort that local people put in fighting the Highland Council planning department. He called the Highland wide plan dysfunctional and compared the difference between the number of houses Highland Council state need to be built over the next 20 years and the much lesser figures from Scottish Government sources; 1900 as opposed to 600.
Michael came in for considerable questioning from the floor about how a pathfinder health service area could save money when it too would have to be administered. It seemed to all have come as a bolt out of the blue to some but Michael seemed to be convinced that it was all coming down the tracks. The Q&A session was eventually wound up by Tommy as Leslie Boulton threw in a political spanner into the conversation by asking how things could be paid for without raising the council tax (he believed freezing council tax was a doctrinaire policy). A good point to stop perhaps as things moved off piste.
It was a lively session – a pity it wasn’t webcast as there are many gurnites out there that would have perhaps liked to have watched. Time doesn’t permit us to write it all up but the Leopold Street Courier will perhaps include a fair bit next week. Also lively was an exchange between Simon Noble and Michael Green over the performance or lack of it from the Nairn River Enterprise body that seems to be in the doldrums just now. The River CC members are to shortly have a workshop meeting to see what they should do next with the nascent social enterprise vehicle.
There was a fair bit on AOB too including reports that displacement of traffic from Harbour Street has meant that the speeders and bad drivers have been going through other parts of the Fishertown. Andrew Purkis was worried that there might be a serious accident.
Chair Tommy Hogg told the meeting that there were 13 applications planning applications that he had looked through and didn’t see any problem with any of them (River CC are statutory consultees) and his fellow councillors were content with that. The meeting closed closer to 10 pm than half past nine.
And don't forget, get a cuppa or pour a dram and have a read of the River CC AGM report, good reading.