Action Note - Ward Forum - Dingwall and Seaforth (Ward 9)
Meeting held on 2nd April 2008
Councillors, David Chisholm (Chair), Peter Cairns, Angela MacLean, Margaret Paterson, Dingwall Community Council, David MacDonald, Muir of Ord Community Council, Tom Davis, Conon Bridge Community Council, Alister MacKinnon, Maryburgh Community Council, Douglas MacKeddie, John Scholes, Ferintosh Community Council, Colin Craig, Northern Constabulary, Inspector Matthew Reiss, Sgt. Donald MacNeil, Highland Council, Liz Cowie, Ward Manager. There were 4 members of the public present.
Nigel Greenwood, Dingwall Community Council, Angus Christie, Maryburgh Community Council, Andrew Cronie, Siannie Moodie, Highland Youth Voice (LC advised that both AC and SM had expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend the Ward Forum due to the date change).
Listed below is the action required as a result of the discussion and decisions taken by the Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Forum at their meeting held on 2nd April 2008.
Item 2 - Action Note from Previous Meeting
2.1 Muir of Ord railway bridge replacement. The issue regarding Muir of Ord railway bridge replacement had been raised with the Corporate Manager as agreed at the previous Ward Forum. LC updated on a meeting that had taken place with Geoff Potter, Project Design Manager, TEC Services and Chris Angwin, Consultant Engineer, Halcrow, at the Ward Business Meeting. It had been agreed that a further meeting should take place by the 18th of April with TEC’s, Halcrow and Muir of Ord Community Council to take forward the scoping commission for the replacement railway bridge. After discussion Tom Davis asked if other Chairs of Community Councils in the Ward could be invited. This was agreed by all present. Muir of Ord Community Council wished to record that they were still unhappy with Highland Council responses on communication so far.
Action point. LC agreed to update all present as she would be working with TECs and Halcrow to organise the meeting.
2.2 Post Office Closures. Cllr. Cairns gave an update with regard to Post Office closures. All present felt that everything had been done that could be done to save Post Office provision within the Ward. Conon Bridge Post Office provision was discussed. Cllr. Cairns emphasised the need for communities to use the remaining Post Offices in Ward 9 as he felt strongly that this would not be the last time that Post Office provision would be reviewed.
2.3 Dingwall Master Plan. LC gave an update from the Planning and Development Service. They are in the process of arranging a meeting initially with the internal key stakeholders (P&D, ECS, TECS and Housing & Property) to scope the various issues from services. This will inform the finalisation of a brief for consultants to tender to undertake the development brief work. Currently there are some ownership issues being pursued by Housing and Property that have yet to be resolved.
Item 3 - Ward Forum Review
3.1 Ward 9 Local Forum Review. Cllr. Chisholm outlined that the main agenda item was reviewing the Ward 9 Forum, its organisation and running, now that there was a full compliment of Ward Community Councils. As this was the first time that all communities had been represented, Cllr Chisholm asked if introductions could be made. Douglas MacKeddie, representing Maryburgh Community Council, took the opportunity at this point to confirm that Church service provision in Maryburgh would remain. Inspector Matthew Reiss gave a brief outline of how operations would be run by Northern Constabulary following the recent restructure. Cllr. Chisholm then handed over to the Ward Manager (LC) to take all present through the Ward Forum discussion paper (Appendix I - outline of the review questions and the discussion/decision made).
3.2 Highland Council Evaluation. LC highlighted the current Highland Council evaluation of Ward Forums that was being led by Bob Cameron, Corporate Manager for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Questionnaires had been sent out directly to Community Councils, other attendees of the Forum, Highland Council staff and Ward Managers. Copies of the questionnaire were available for Members of the public to return direct to Bob Cameron. LC clarified that Ward 9 had already taken the decision to review the local Ward Forum arrangements for Dingwall & Seaforth and that this would run in tandem with the Highland Council Review.
Item 4 - Strategic Priorities for Ward 9.
4.1 Cllr. Chisholm outlined the strategic priorities summary (PDF) and gave background to the development of this document for Ward 9 and for its communities. He detailed that the information had already been seen by the Chief Executive and that it had been agreed that the strategic priorities would be presented to the Ward Forum for ratification. The detail had not as yet gone out to Highland Council Directors as Cllr. Chisholm said Members had felt it was important that the Ward Forum endorsed the strategic priorities before this action took place. There was robust discussion around the priorities and the document was unanimously adopted with agreed amendments.
Action point. LC to circulate out to Directors and then to Area Service Managers.
Item 5 - Scrutiny of Highland Council Services.
5.1 LC took the Forum through the proposals for presentation of information on Highland Council services at a Ward level. She detailed that this would offer Community Councils and members of the Forum the opportunity to look at service provision at Ward level in detail. Colin Craig, Ferintosh Community Council, felt that it was better to have services to the Ward Forum to be held accountable on specific area operational issues. This was agreed. In general terms Forum members were happy with service provision at Ward level, however there were key areas that they felt should be addressed through the Forum:
- Communication. LC outlined that the Chief Executive, Convenor and Vice Convenor had asked for dates of Ward Forum in order that they could attend and meet Ward Forum members. This would offer an opportunity for Forum members to raise their concerns on communication directly.
- Perception of holding letters. Tom Davies, Muir of Ord Community Council, and Alister McKinnon, Conon Bridge Community Council, felt that holding letters were used to stall responses rather than to give staff the opportunity to answer enquiries. This was something that they wished to discuss at a higher level.
- Decisions affecting communities. Reports of communities waiting for community decisions and those decisions being delayed. The Muir of Ord railway bridge was used as an example. Numerous letters had been written, various holding letters sent back. It was felt that the communication in this process had been at a very poor level.
- Accountability. Forum members felt that local staff were often left to take responsibility when issues should have been dealt with at HQ level.
Forum members agreed that local communication with Highland Council Managers was high on the agenda and this would form a future discussion topic when the Chief Executive, Convenor and Vice Convenor were able to attend.
Item 6 - Ward Discretionary Budget End of Year Summary.
6.1 LC gave a full accounting of Ward Discretionary Budget spend for 2007/2008 (Appendix 2 PDF). Community Councils Chairs felt that the one-off grant for individual Community Councils had given a very welcome boost to local projects and endorsed the view of investment in communities at a local level by Highland Council. All present were happy with the way in which the Discretionary Budget had been allocated across the ward for the previous financial year.
Item 7 - Consultations.
- Development Plan Scheme. LC outlined the current consultation underway for the Planning & Development Service Development Plan Scheme. She confirmed that information would be sent out direct to Community Councils and that it could be accessed at Libraries and Service Points and that it was also available on the Highland Council website.
- Affordable Housing Development Plan Policy Guideline Consultation Draft. LC again outlined that this document would be sent direct to Community Councils and that it would be available in Libraries, Service Points and was available on the Highland Council website.
Item 8 - Community Safety
8.1 Inspector Matthew Reiss detailed Northern Constabulary’s commitment to attending and contributing to the Ward Forums. Community Council Chairs present raised their concern over the lack of individual Police attending Community Council meetings. Whilst it was felt that the Ward Forum and Police commitment to attend the Ward Forum was desirable and necessary, local communities were suffering from having lack of local Police contact. Inspector Reiss gave assurances that where possible, local Police staff would attend Community Council meetings operational matters permitting. Police Officers were assigned to specific areas and to the Community Councils in those areas, however operational issues took priority and it was hoped that communities would be supportive of this. This also applied to Ward Forums and it was clarified again that if there was an emergency in terms of operations that it could be assumed if Police were not in attendance at the Ward Forum that urgent operational matters had had to be attended to. Community Councils asked that it be recorded that they wished to continue to have a Police presence at Community Council meetings as it gave an important local links to policing for their communities. Inspector Reiss confirmed that a key aim arising from the restructure was to improve provision of frontline policing. He confirmed that there was no loss of Inspector cover. There had been a realignment of roles and Inspector Pamela Ross was now involved with the Public Protection Unit. Funding for Community Safety initiatives and projects was discussed. With ring-fencing ending it was likely that there would be a reduction in targeted funding for local initiatives. Cllr. Chisholm expressed concern that this would mean that there would be more pressure on the Discretionary Budget if there was less availability in funding sources for communities to apply for initiatives such as CCTV. Action point. LC to investigate this further. Inspector Reiss confirmed that there had been a perceived rise in youth issues and incidents involving vandalism and fire raising. These were being urgently looked at. He urged all present to continue to inform the police of any incidents that occurred. If Community Councils, or local members of the community felt that they had information that would help to increase detection rates for individual issues, information on this would be welcomed at Police Headquarters in either Dingwall or Inverness. Inspector Reiss confirmed that he would be attending the next Ward Forum which would be held in Muir of Ord (according to the new rota for Ward Forum meetings). Speeding issues were highlighted and it was agreed that this could be the key topic for the Police in addition to any other relevant local information regarding Ward policing.
Item 9 - AOB.
There were no AOB items.
Date of Next Ward Forum
The next Ward Forum will be held on 21st May at the Muir of Ord Pavilion at 7.00pm. LC asked if there were any public questions that these be submitted in advance of the meeting.
Community Council Meeting Rota Ward 9
Ferintosh Community Council - Third Monday of the month, 7.00pm, Culbokie School
Maryburgh Community Council - Last Monday of the month, 7.00 pm, Maryburgh Amenities Centre
Dingwall Community Council - Second Monday of the month, 7.30pm, Council Chamber, Dingwall
Muir of Ord Community Council - To be confirmed
Conon Bridge Community Council - Every six weeks on Tuesdays at 7.30pm in Conon Bridge Church Hall.