Community councils told to postpone elections for year

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MEMBERS of the Capital’s community councils have been left fuming after being told that their elections are to be postponed for a year.

Many of the city’s 45 community councils had already begun recruiting new members ahead of elections in October but council bosses informed them this month that their plans have to be put back a year to avoid clashing with the council’s own elections.

Jenny Mackenzie, founder of the National Network of Community Councillors and herself a Leith community councillor, has slammed the decision and said it only further illustrates the council view of community councils as “token consultees”.

Ms Mackenzie said: “The council have left it very late to tell us, numerous community councils are now left with an odd situation whereby current members are unable to retire while fresh blood cannot be elected to office.

“We’ve had no consultation on this whatsoever, instead we’ve had it imposed upon us.

“The council continually states that it wants to better empower community councils and then they do this. Community councils have enough problems attracting new blood without the council adding to their problems by making them look foolish.”

John Palmer, Grange/Prestonfield Community Council chair, said: “This announcement came out of the blue. The original reason given was that new councillors would not be experienced enough to act as returning officers, which is laughable.”

Dr Marianna Clyde, chair of Merchiston Community Council, added: “This postponement puts us under a lot more strain as we were hoping to recruit some new members, which is now pretty pointless as we’d have to tell them to come back next October instead.”

A similar situation is being experienced at various other community councils such as the Queensferry & District group, which had begun the process of advertising for new members.

Secretary Terry Airlie said: “We have only just begun receiving positive feedback from locals who are keen to join us.”

The election postponement also puts paid to any plans to revive the defunct Southside Community Council, which covers Newington.

Steve Burgess, Green councillor for Southside/Newington ward said: “Our community councils should have a vital role in making local decisions and holding the council to account. I’m dismayed that because of a technicality, elections have been delayed for a whole year and I’m worried that the process of reinvigorating community councils will stall. I want the council to set out a clear plan so that when elections are held in 2013, there is a proper campaign to get people involved.”

The city council said community council elections were held every three years, except when they clashed with local government polls.

A spokeswoman said: “We recognise the importance of community councils and value the commitment and contribution of their members. We will be happy to provide support in their drive to recruit new members between now and next year’s elections.”