Boundary Commission Proposals

The Boundaries Commission has produced proposals that, among other things, will see the demise of the Cowal ward that currently has 3 councillors. The reality is that the population fall in Argyll & Bute is particularly problematic in Bute and Cowal and the Boundaries Commission have to ensure there is an appropriate number of councillors for the voting population. However, the proposals are absurd because west  Cowal will become part of Bute, the Dunoon ward will extend northwards to include Sandbank and all of the rest will become part of Lomond North ward.

The council response to this was to set up a working group and the response submitted was weak and ineffective. Given that the proposals affect Bute and Cowal so severely, you might have thought the council leader would have wanted all the Bute and Cowal councillors on his working group but not Dick Walsh. The last people he would have on any group or committee are myself and Bruce Marshall so we were again ignored.

The falling population, though, is a sign of a failing area and while the council is not solely to blame, Walsh blames everyone else but the council he has led for so long. Under his so called leadership precious little goes right and plenty goes wrong. The council is neither business friendly nor people friendly and things are allowed to happen that are against the best interests of the area. Walsh has been in charge for so long he personally has to take responsibility but he won’t, of course.

Michael Russell submitted a motion to the parliament about the proposals and this is pasted below. I think his motion was fine and I fully support it but it enraged Walsh. Walsh accused Michael of “dishonesty” in an email to South Cowal Community Council and then wrote to all the Cowal and Bute community councils.

Michael Russell’s Motion:

That the Parliament notes the changes to local government wards in Argyll and Bute that have been proposed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland in its 5th review; is concerned that Argyll and Bute Council has failed to fully consult its members regarding these changes, including members in wards adversely affected by them; regrets that the council’s current administration has apparently not offered any significant opposition to these changes; understands that the reason for these changes, which include the only loss of a full ward in Scotland, lie in the greatest part in the failure of the council to tackle effectively the depopulation of the area; urges communities affected to submit their views to the Local Government Boundary Commission before 22 October 2015; is particularly concerned at the loss of a ward in Cowal, the loss of three councillors from the current total of 36 in Argyll and Bute, the inclusion of parts of Cowal in the Lomond ward contrary to patterns of local communication, settlement and transportation, the inclusion of parts of Cowal in the Bute ward contrary to patterns of local communication, settlement and transportation, the change to ward boundaries in mid-Argyll contrary to patterns of local communication, settlement and transportation and what it considers the unnecessary focus on the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, and calls on the commission to take more note in its recommendations of the desire by communities, particularly in rural areas, for geographical and community identity and solidarity rather than continue to emphasise parity in electoral numbers.

Walsh’s letter to community councils is in the link below and the 2nd link is Michael Russell’s reply. Walsh is clearly rattled but he would be better recognising that he is a serial failure as is his leadership of this council.

D Walsh letter to community councils     M Russell’s reply


  1. What is the rationale for reducing councillor headcount like this, is it purely to make the numbers match on a spreadsheet, a money saving measure or what? Neither of those seem very compelling, spreadsheets that work for urban central belt areas are hardly going to work for sparsely populated areas like Argyll and if budget is the reason then why not reduce the councillor wage to fit available funds?

    1. The rational is simply that they need to reflect the ratios of voters to councillors. In the rest of Scotland, the population is increasing as a general rule so they justify more councillors. The government doesn’t want to see an overall increase hence the need to reduce the number of councillors in areas like ours. Personally, I would double the number of councillors to improve democracy and halve the salary to ensure the costs stay the same. But do turkeys ever vote for Christmas?

      1. I’d have a go at commenting on the consultation page but what’s the point? With these preset objectives it doesn’t matter where you draw the lines Argyll and Bute will end up with a poor outcome, councillors remote from their constituents and spending most of their lives in cars. Your suggestion does at least have the merit of being simple to implement within the existing system. Turkeys indeed.

        Not strictly relevant here, but has there ever been any attempt to introduce video-conferencing for council meetings? Given the distances travelled it wouldn’t take long to pay for even quite sophisticated AV equipment with saved mileage.

        1. The VC arrangement the council has is poor. The issue is a combination of poor quality equipment in a number of locations and poor management of the overall system. A fortune could be saved with some investment and good management. I tried to get the council to agree a deal with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) on the management of the system but they would not do it. The council is a testament to inefficiency with people spending huge amounts of time travelling needlessly. To be fair, the phone system, Lync, is good but it’s not up to the kind of quality needed for meetings. The VC system in the council chamber is good but the connections elsewhere are dire.

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