Committee bid fails

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An attempt to have local area committes in Argyll and Bute meet more often has been voted down.

South Kintyre independent councillor Donald Kelly put forward a proposal that the council’s four area committees should meet six times a year rather than four.

But the ruling group of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and some independent councillors, disagreed and voted to keep the schedule which applied during the last council, with area committees meeting every three months.

The area committees are made up of the councillors for each administrative area of Argyll and Bute – Bute and Cowal, Helensburgh and Lomond, Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands, and Oban, Lorn and the Isles. They meet in March, June, September and December.

Councillor Kelly made the plea for meetings to be more regular at a full council meeting on Thursday May 19 – the council’s first meeting since the elections two weeks earlier.

He said: ‘The reason I brought this forward at this stage of the new council is that I feel it is important that we give constituents every opportunity to have a strong voice in their particular area.

‘Members are elected to represent their community and the best way to do that is through the area committee. It provides a strong voice for the community and, as it stands, quarterly meetings do not have the continuity to take things forward.

‘I feel quite strongly that we should at least go to bi-monthly meetings to represent our communities to the best of our ability.’

Councillor Kelly was then advised that if his amendment to the ruling group’s proposed arrangements succeeded, it would then be subject to a further report to the council.

Kintyre and the Islands Liberal Democrat Councillor Robin Currie, the council’s leader, who had previously spoken of his desire for all councillors to work together by sharing their thoughts and aspirations, replied: ‘I meant what I said – I want to engage with everybody, and I think [deputy leader] councillor Gary Mulvaney meant the same.

‘But I don’t think the way to do that is to have more area committees. People on Colonsay or Coll, or wherever, are not going to say: ‘We are having more area committees, we are going to engage more’.

‘I am really serious when I say that I hope in the next few weeks, both the chief executive (Pippa Milne) and I can go out into communities, speak to people and get their views.

‘Not just ordinary people, but reach out to people we don’t usually hear from. I think that is the way to engage, to listen, and hopefully the priorities of the communities become priorities for the council.’

The recommendations of a short-life working group for political management arrangements were then carried by 19 votes to 15.

Donald Kelly stood as an independent at the May 5 election after being ejected from the Conservatives, the party he had represented for 20 years, without explanation.

Campaigning on a ‘South Kintyre first’ ticket, Mr Kelly won the highest number of first preference votes in his ward – 848 – beating the Conservative candidate standing against him Tommy Macpherson, who was also elected with 531 votes.