Will community council elections tap into the referendum effect?
How many times have you or your friends and neighbours had a good moan about what’s going on in the street or neighbourhood?
Well, now’s your or their chance to do something about it – by standing for election to your local Community Council.
Or, if none exists, why not start one up?
Nominations, which take place every four years, are currently being sought for the forthcoming Community Council elections on November 13, and names have to be in by Thursday, October 16.
It will be interesting to see if there is a spin-off from September’s referendum which generated huge participation, and turnout at the polls.
At present there are only two community councils in Kirkcaldy covering the west and north, but both have vacancies - and both want more people to get involved.
It’s a different picture in Kinghorn, where elections were held last time round because there were more candidates than there were seats, and Burntisland and Aberdour which are heavily involved in village life.
Here’s the Press guide to the councils.
Kirkcaldy North Community Council
Kenneth Miller has been secretary for 10 years, and in all the time it has existed the council has never had anywhere near its full membership of 13 members.
“We cover everything north of Chapel Level from the chalet park on Dunnikier Way along to Fife Central Retail Park.
“For the past four years we have never had more than seven members and we are now down to just four regulars, which is not even the minimum number we need.
“Our chairman John Mainland left recently because he has taken a job elsewhere, and nobody else is coming forward.
“I think that most people who have an issue around here tend to go directly to their elected Fife councillor, instead of coming through us, although we are always consulted on issues such as planning.
“But I am sure that Community Councils have a role to play in trying to focus some of the issues people want to deal with. They tend to work better in places like Burntisland and Kinghorn which have very active ones. In urban areas throughout the whole of Scotland they simply either don’t exist or don’t function in the way they were originally envisaged.”
Kirkcaldy West Community Council
David Henderson has been chairman for around 20 years.
There are currently only 12 of the 20 possible seats filled, and he and other members are actively trying to encourage more volunteers to put their names forward for the elections.
“I am hopeful that we will survive, but the bottom line is that we have never been fully subscribed,” he said. ‘‘Our secretary is moving on because of work and we have a largely retired membership.
“We would love to get some new, younger members on to the council this time round.
“We are fairly active in planning and local government affairs, but it would be good to have more people with different interests to widen our scope.”
Kinghorn Community Council
Liz Mitchell is a member of the community council which is chaired by her husband Chris.
She said: “The last time we had to have an election because there were more people than there were places, which was great.
As well as a good membership, there is always a good turnout of members of the public at meetings.
“We always have around 12-15 people in attendance, and we encourage people to come along, with a regular slot for them to raise any issues they may have on the night -they don’t have to have it minuted beforehand.”
Kinghorn has 12 seats and Liz says both she and Chris intend to put their names forward again.
“Community Councils are an important part of local democracy, and one of the first things we did when we were elected was to hold a public consultation called the ‘Kinghorn Blether’ to ask people what they felt their priorities were.
“If I am re-elected then I will be suggesting that we do that again as it was a very worthwhile exercise.”
Burntisland Community Council
Alex MacDonald, chairman, said that all 15 places will be up for election.
He said: “We have had a very active Community Council since the opportunity first arose in 1978.
“Things have moved on since then – we can now have up to 15 members as opposed to the original nine – so we’ve been able to do many more things.
“Practical results include things like environmental improvement, the Scots Verse competition, refurbishing historical furniture; conserving the war memorial; and introducing the Community Award.
“We’ve also made representations - with mixed outcomes - on development sites, wind turbines and a whole raft of planning applications. We’ve provided a platform for special-interest groups to address our meetings and encouraged them to engage with the wider community.
“In the background we’ve always had long-term activities which seek ways of improving the town as a hub of commercial and social activity.
“It’s vital that we are seen to represent a cross-section of the community, so we do what we can to make our meetings and our membership open.’’
The final meeting of the current Community Council is tomorrow (Friday), at 7.00 p.m in the Burgh Chambers. It is open to the public.
Auchtertool Community Council
Despite there not being a Community Council in the village at the moment, there is an informal group of local people who deal with any issues that arise in Auchtertool and the surrounding area.
Councillor Susan Leslie said: “We do have many people from the village who have an interest in life here in Auchtertool. I would hope that some of them would stand at the upcoming Community Council elections.”
We need new blood
Leader of Fife Council David Ross is keen to encourage more people to make a real difference in their local areas.
He said: “Community councils are an important part of giving our communities a voice. They can provide councillors and statutory bodies with the grassroots viewpoint and opinions that are essential to shaping services and making decisions about issues that matter to local people.
“Some community councils are more active than others and some areas don’t even have one. New blood is always needed if groups like this are to grow and develop.
“I would really like to see a community council in all 105 locations and would encourage anyone who is interested in being an independent advocate for their community to come forward and stand for election.”
To get involved, visit www.fifedirect.org.uk/elections.