Chair reflects after final Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee
At a meeting of The Highland Council on 3 September it was agreed to replace the Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee with two new Local Forums so today’s meeting of the Committee, held in Golspie, was the final one.
East Sutherland and Edderton Councillor Deirdre Mackay has chaired the Area Committee since its first meeting in Golspie on 20 August 2012 and took the opportunity today to thank members, officers and partners for their contributions and to look ahead to new arrangements for local decision-making, local scrutiny and engaging with partners and communities.
She said: “The Area Committee was set up as part of a year-long pilot to bring local democracy back to the north, paving the way for the other Area Committees across the Highlands to be created. Previously we’d had a gap of five years without the opportunity for local scrutiny and decision-making. It has been a privilege to serve as Chair for the last 3 years and I am particularly proud of the work that has been achieved in partnership working, to promote tourism and boost the local economy.
“What has become clear to me is the huge appetite there is to go back to localised committees and to do more community planning, with more decision making and more service planning at a local level. Engaging fully with our communities and working together in close partnerships can bring new exciting opportunities. I am particularly keen to involve young people as they are our future. I am sure the Forums will reflect the great optimism, confidence and potential there is in Caithness and Sutherland and I look forward to new opportunities to work together to deliver progress on what matters to our communities.”
Council business in the new local community planning forums for Caithness and Sutherland will be focussed on decision making, local scrutiny, partnership business and public engagement. It is envisaged that there should be devolved control over Community Services budgets and engaging communities in deciding local spending priorities. Community planning partners are to be asked if they wish to take part in these new Forums.
The new arrangements for the Forums are expected to evolve over time to support the implementation of new legal duties arising from the Community Empowerment Act. There will be further discussions with community planning partners on the partnership elements of the new forums and the feedback from these will be reported to The Highland Council in October.