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Community-minded individuals are being encouraged to step forward and sign up to represent their areas at grassroots council level.
Nominations are being invited from people seeking election to 15 Highland community councils including three in Lochaber. Acharacle and Kinlochleven require five new members while Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry need nine people to join to enable them to form a quorum.
All three community councils are currently in abeyance.
Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Andrew Baxter is one of many who believe community councils form a vital part of the political process locally.
He told us: ‘Good community councils are important here in Lochaber.
‘They effectively represent local opinion on a wide range of issues that otherwise would go unnoticed by a range of public bodies.
‘I know from experience how their absence makes it even more difficult to get those at Highland Council in Inverness to listen to Lochaber people. They do make a difference.’
Community councils are voluntary organisations that express the views and concerns of local people within their area across a wide range of issues from new buildings and roads to local services and facilities.
Joanne Matheson stood down as chairperson from Acharacle community council in November. Although she will not be standing again this time around, Joanne also believes that community councils are vital to ensuring that towns and villages in the area are involved in local decision making.
‘Community Councils are the lowest level of government and as such have certain statutory responsibilities, although their role has been greatly diminished in recent years,’ she told us.
‘Both UK and Scottish Government have been talking up the benefits of lower level decision making, whilst at the same time taking more and more decisions centrally and removing powers from communities.
‘Anyone who disagrees with this process should support their community councils in any way they can and ideally consider standing for election.
‘If we allow powers to continue to be eroded eventually it will be easy to argue a case against the existence of Community Councils. We will have lost a way to interact with higher levels of government, and speak about matters which affect our communities.’
Anyone who wishes to support their local Community Council should be registered in the current Electoral Register for the Community Council area and must be 16 years old and over.
Nomination forms and copies of the scheme for the establishment of Community Councils can be:
• downloaded from The Highland Council website at: www.highland.gov.uk/elections
• obtained on request, by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
• obtained by contacting the appropriate Ward Manager. Details available here – www.highland.gov.uk/elections
Completed nomination forms must be submitted to the appropriate Ward Manager and be received not later than noon on Tuesday February 1, 2022. Ward managers will accept emailed copies of the form, so long as it has been correctly completed and contains the signature of the candidate and witness.
If any of the community councils receive valid nominations by the deadline that exceeds its membership number then an election will take place on Thursday March 3, 2022 via postal ballot.