New blood will give young people a voice at Burntisland Community Council

Brendan and Natalie are hoping to give young people a voice. Pic by FPA
Brendan and Natalie are hoping to give young people a voice. Pic by FPA

As community councils around Fife are struggling to survive, with many suffering from a lack of numbers, Burntisland is bucking the trend.

At the recent elections, held earlier this month, Burntisland reached its full quota of 15 applicants.

Alex MacDonald

Alex MacDonald

It is proving to be a thriving organisation with a wide range of age and experience in its membership.

And it is also attracting new and younger blood, with two teenagers joining its ranks.

Brendan Burns (18) and Natalie Paul (17) are two of the youngest ever members of the community council.

And they both hope that they can help provide young people in their town with a voice on what they would like to see in their community.

Brendan, a youth worker with Kirkcaldy YMCA, and Natalie, a travel and tourism student at Fife College, first became interested in local politics when they joined Burntisland Youth Action Group three years ago, helping to put forward the views of residents in the Castle area of the town, where they both live.

Through that they have helped improve lighting, parking and a playpark as well as organising events for young people, including a big music event held in the summer.

“We went along to a community barbecue organised by Fife Council’s community learning and development in September as part of the youth group and got speaking to some local councillors who told us about the community council and the elections,” explained Brendan.

“That was when we decided to put our names forward because we felt that we could be a good link between the young people and the town.”

Natalie added: “We thought it would be good to put our views across to come up with more ideas to help them to see what young people want.

“At the moment there seems to be a gap and older people see the town a lot differently to us.”

Brendan attended his first community council meeting last week, but Natalie was on holiday when it took place.

“They were all very welcoming and gave me lots of information to keep me right,” he said.

“I didn’t do a lot of talking, I just listened to what was going on, but I am keen to get involved.

“Burntisland is a nice place and has a great community spirit but there need to be improvements on things for young people to do.

“They go out and start drinking because there’s nothing for them to do.”

Natalie added: “We want them to be able to come to us and tell us what kind of things they would like to see in the town and we can take their ideas to the community council and see if they can help to get some of them in place.”

Alex MacDonald, chairman of Burntisland Community Council, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, said: “It has been a challenge to get full membership ever since the target number was increased from nine to 15 members, so it’s great to have new faces on board.

“We’re a particularly active community council so it’s critical for us to be able to represent all sectors of the community – not just location and gender but also age. Our new intake will bring a refreshing perspective to our discussions and our projects.

“Right now, we’re working on a seven-figure challenge to secure and develop the town’s Burgh Chambers.

“It’s a major undertaking at the heart of our town and our community, so we need the extra energy, ideas and stamina that we will get from our enhanced membership.”

Fife currently has 78 active community councils out of a potential 105.

Linda Bissett, Fife Council’s head of democractic services, said: “Community councils are an important part of giving communities a voice.

“They provide councillors and statutory bodies with the views and opinions of the people living in the areas and are essential to shaping services and making decisions about issues that matter to local residents.

“This year we had an increase in the number of nominations received.

“However, unfortunately not everyone who was nominated was eligible to go on and become a member.

“This was due to a number of reasons including not having someone second their nomination or because they’re not registered to vote.

“It’s always great to get new blood so I’m pleased that we’ve also seen an increase in the number of young people getting involved.

“If your community is one of the areas that wasn’t able to form a community council, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you can’t establish one in the future.

“In between elections, if 20 electors from within the area submit a written application to have the community council established, we will make the necessary arrangements to hold an interim election for that area.”

For more information on community councils and the elections visit www.fifedirect.org.uk/communitycouncils.