Boundary proposals will ‘cost more’

Ward boundary proposals for Bute.
Ward boundary proposals for Bute.

Proposed changes to the boundary in which Bute is located have been heavily criticised this week by an island councillor.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland wants to make major changes to ward boundaries in the council area - one of which would see the three Bute councillors also having to represent Colintraive, Glendaruel, Tighnabruaich, Portavadie and most of west Cowal from 2017 onwards. The Commission further proposes that the number of councillors in Argyll and Bute is cut from 36 to 33.

Bute councillor, Isobel Strong, has criticised the proposals, arguing that the plans would end up costing Argyll and Bute Council more money.

Cllr Strong said: “This is a huge ward going from Cairndow at the Rest and be Thankful in the north to the island of Bute in the south and from Portavadie in the West to Carrick Castle and Kilmun on the eastern side. The mainland communities are small and dispersed, do not have good public transport links apart from school buses and there are many miles of single track road.

“The parity for Bute is different from the Western Isles which is 1 to 600 or so while in creating a large ward of Bute and Cowal the parity is 1 to 2000. As Bute is an island I cannot see why it can’t be treated the same as the Western Isles.

“Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) indicators have been used in defining categories of councils but recent studies have shown that rurality and lack of accessibility should be taken into account in addition to deprivation in small rural and island areas. The area also has a declining population which I think has driven this report. In my opinion a declining population needs more councillor input not less.

“Councillors are obliged to attend community council meetings so if all four councillors were from Bute which has the greatest concentration of population it would be almost impossible to attend community council meetings in e.g. Kilfinan without a mad dash to the Colintraive ferry for 8.55pm.

“Overnight stays would be necessary which would vastly increase the cost to the council. I think it would be difficult to adequately represent the area where people might rightly feel that their councillor didn’t understand their problem. The same issue would arise if mainland councillors were elected and they would have to travel to Bute. Arranging surgeries would be a nightmare.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has written to the Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart asking him not to implement the recommendations, stating: “What Argyll and Bute really needs is the devolution of power down to communities.

“We need to engage more people in local democracy, not fewer, and according these proposals are not fit for purpose and need to be abandoned. Instead the Scottish Government should get started now on the urgent task of bringing power back to the people of this constituency.”

To view the proposals for Argyll and Bute wards click here.