Minutes 2nd December 2015

Draft, to be agreed on 20th January 2016

Strachur District Community Council

Minutes of General Meeting

Held 19:30 on Wednesday 2nd December 2015, Strachur Memorial Hall

Members present: Archie Reid (Convenor), Iain Wilkie and Les Earle (Secretary).

Also in attendance: Peter Roy (Chair) and Bill Dickson (Vice Chair) of the Strachur and District Community Development Company Ltd (Devco) and three members of the public.

1. Convener’s opening remarks: General welcome and the meeting was opened.

2. Apologies and declarations of interest: Cllr Alex McNaughton, Heather Grier and Community Councillors; Kirstie Reid and Isabel McGladdery. No declarations of interest.

3. Minutes: Minutes for the meeting held on 21st October 2015 were agreed as accurate.

4. Matters arising: Cllr McNaughton had sent word that the repairs to the church wall would not take place this financial year.

5. Police Report: There was no police report.

6. Health Report: Heather had sent a report covering:

a. The Patient Participation Group (PPG) had received a response from NHS Highland re the perceived underfunding of the Strachur Medical Practice and, after consideration, responded expressing dissatisfaction and raising further questions. The letter was reported to the meeting.

The meeting thanked Heather for her dogged determination on this issue.

b. Health and Care Integration. It was apparent that the public had been given neither time nor sufficient info to participate in the consultation recently concluded. The timing and location of the public meetings was also faulty. Heather had (at the CC’s suggestion) attended the Beatson coffee morning here at the Hall and felt that more successful than the hospital based meetings.

c. The Integration Board (of which Heather is a member) is now meeting regularly and Heather’s role is to ensure that any feedback is considered from the public and carer perspective with the intent of fixing it in the Integration Plan and not the footnotes.

7. Secretary’s report:

a. Arising from the last Police Report Les produced an article for the newsletter on the “council tax scam” and re-advertised Neighbourhood Watch on the facebook page.

b. Les ordered the Neighbourhood Watch placards for Strathlachlan, St Catherines, Glenbranter and Strachur.

c. The submission to the LGBCS having now been made Les produced an article on the future process. It now seemed unlikely that there would be a further consultation but in the next week or two it would become clearer.

d. Arising from the Health Report, Les updated the facebook page to spread the word on the Drop in Event, 2nd November and the A+B Draft Strategic Plan Consultation.

e. Les advertised the Remembrance Service, 8th November, and produced an article reporting on the event.

8. Treasurer’s report: The current balance stands at £2036, £182 having been paid out for Neighbourhood Watch signs.

9. Transport update: There was no report as the next Forum meeting would be on Friday 4/12/15

10. A+B “Planning our Future” Consultation: Iain had obtained hard copies of the consultation document for distribution at the Shop, Filling Station and Memorial Hall for the benefit of those without a computer as this consultation was heavily orientated toward the internet user.

Les distributed a copy of the CC’s draft response and noted a small alteration suggested by Archie. The draft letter, to be sent before the deadline, is attached to these minutes.

11. Any other business:

a. Peter and Bill from the Devco updated the meeting on the progress so far made in establishing a community health facility (Hub) in Strachur on the Heron Park site over the road from the Hall. The design had now been finalised, it would follow that of the pavilion giving medium sized rooms to allow privacy for small groups. The Government is encouraging the creation of Hubs to address public health issues not easily dealt with in GP practices. (It was later suggested as a base for health charities, eg MacMillan.)

It was suggested that the Hub might also provide a home for the White Elephant store that currently was homeless. Also raised was the prospect of allowing external access to the toilet facility to provide Strachur’s only public loo. It was intended to extend and improve the car park as part of the development.

The Devco was now at a stage where an application for planning permission could be made. Funding for the scheme was to be investigated once permission was granted.

Peter took the chance to say that Douglas Currie was now back home from his operation.

b. Peter and Les reported that Gilkes, the developers of the Coire Ealt hydro scheme, were now in a position to release the first payment of Community Benefit (CB), £2500. Jeff Wilson (Secretary, Devco) was liaising with Gilkes and, in due course, would take steps to hold an inaugural meeting of the Strachur and District Community Benefit Fund.

Les reported that the Glenbranter scheme was on the back boiler at the moment as there was no available grid capacity/licence to warrant progressing development.

c. A member of the public raised a couple of issues:

* the grass verge was over-growing on the pavement in several locations (eg Creggans to A886 junction) reducing the width of the pavement and bringing pedestrians closer to speeding traffic and lorry cab mirrors.

* traffic speed enforcement by the police was not given the priority enjoyed by Sandbank and St Catherines/Cairndow. In addition, the limit of 40mph was in itself inappropriate for the area by the Creggans and the school crossing.

Les said he would raise these issues with the Roads Dept of A+B as it was about time to remind them of outstanding promises in relation to the improvements at the school crossing.

d. Les reported that Cllr McNaughton had been told of an incidence of fly-tipping near the junction of the B8000 and A886. He had reported it to the relevant Council officers.

e. It was reported that the BT/Open Reach lines at Lephinmore had suffered disruption of late (in part due to their not being buried and, in cases, leant on by trees). The CC was not asked to act specifically though a member of the public was able to offer advice to the person raising the issue.

f. There was a request for info about development of the Marine Protection Area (MPA) with reference to Loch Fyne and Loch Goil. Les was able to report that the final decision on management measures for the MPA’s will be announced in early December by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment. Some thought that there would be a chance for further public consultation. Les had enquired of A+B officers if this was the case and they reported that the forthcoming decisions would be final and, they thought, would follow closely with what was announced for Loch Fyne in June 2015. Only if the proposals vary significantly would there be a fresh consultation.

g. Archie announced that he would be putting up the Neighbourhood Watch signs mentioned earlier when the weather improved. (So, April then!)

h. After a brief discussion of the Christmas Lights to be turned on by the Youth and Drama Group (YDG), 18:30, Tuesday 15th December, Archie announced that the CC would be making a donation to the YDG.

i. Iain MacGregor took the opportunity to advertise the Burns’ Night Supper to be held at Strathlachlan Hall on Friday, 22nd January, tickets £15

12. Date of next meeting: 19:30, Wednesday 20th January 2016 at the Strachur Memorial Hall.

Les Earle, Secretary, Strachur District Community Council

PLANNING OUR FUTURE –DRAFT RESPONSE 2/12/15

Dear Cllr Walsh

RE: PLANNING OUR FUTURE

While generally welcoming the concept of public consultation, we on Strachur Community Council feel it is a process best reserved for single issue controversies (eg. the sale of Castle Toward) rather than multi-facetted problems like the Council’s budget. With a single issue the interested person can undertake research and become informed; the wider the subject, the less the chance of being able to get any perspective. Councillors have a whole administration, full of experts, to draw on - the public has Google.

Councillors are elected, and they receive an allowance, simply because the mass of electors cannot hope to run the administration en masse. Councillors have to immerse themselves in the detail of all the reports and to bear the responsibility of decision making.

Locally the issue that has attracted most concern has been the possible cutting of the mobile library for a saving of £114,000 in 2016/17. Over thirty per cent of the residents in the Strachur district are aged over 65, with a significant number unable to drive and (the bus service being far from ideal) the mobile library is a vital service provided by the Council.

The single issue of mobile libraries demonstrates perfectly the problem outlined in paragraph one. A little research shows that the Council (after an enlightened 150 years) is in danger of breaching its legal duty to provide a “comprehensive and efficient library service”. It appears that only the imposition of a duty maintained the aspirations of the Scottish enlightenment. Meanwhile attempts to research the detail of the sale of Castle Toward raises as many questions as answers. The newspapers say that the sale went ahead for “a reported £1.5m”, yet only a few months previously it was deemed by the Council to be impossible to sell for a sum less than the District Valuer’s £1.75m. For a Councillor appraised of all the facts and with access to a legal department and finance department, these questions are no doubt transparent and answerable. For a member of the public, the question of why the sale went ahead under valuation and the fact that the £250,000 lost could have kept the mobile library running for two years is opaque.

(We are happy to be corrected on any of the detail in the last paragraph. Any misconceptions are down to ignorance of the facts.)

No multi-facetted consultation can hope to provide sufficient data for informed decision-making as each element will lack its historical context and future possible consequences – it is reduced to a “hit parade” of savings. Similarly it will always stand accused of being less than comprehensive. You will no doubt be aware of the well-advertised alternative set of proposals and, whether you agree with them or not, it is a serious contribution to the debate and a member of the public is entitled to ask why some of the headline topics (eg. sale of Kilmory, decentralisation, Councillors’ allowances, review of town centre strategies, review of asset portfolio, etc.) were not featured in Planning our Future? Perhaps they were included and then rejected for good reason but we are not, cannot be, aware of the full picture.

In the final analysis Councillors stood for election knowing where their duties lay and they must now apply themselves to the task in hand and take responsibility for the decisions they take. However, we hope that in their deliberations and decisions, Councillors will abide by the principle that, whilst it is inevitable that all members of the community will be affected adversely to some extent, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, children and children’s services should be protected as much as is possible.

Les Earle, Secretary, Strachur District Community Council

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