Kitchener leaflet sparks community council rush

Peter Schwartz says the eye-catching election pamphlet paid dividends. Picture: Joey Kelly
Peter Schwartz says the eye-catching election pamphlet paid dividends. Picture: Joey Kelly
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AN unexpected surge of candidates for a community council has been caused by an eye-catching – and costly – election pamphlet, it has been claimed.

Around 14 nominations have been submitted for just a dozen seats on the Liberton and District Community Council, sparking an election that is expected to change the face of the authority.

Half of those who have put themselves forward for the ballot are new blood, igniting hopes the community council will spread into new areas becoming a more robust and effective platform for grassroots politics. Liberton is one of three wards holding elections after a record-breaking 500 nominations were received for seats across the Capital.

Both Craigmillar and Portobello were obvious candidates to go to the polls following high-profile controversies over the future of high schools in the districts.

But many in political circles have been left pondering what has triggered such a groundswell of interest in Liberton grassroots politics.

Peter Schwarz, 86, outgoing treasurer and the founding secretary of Liberton and District Community Council, said a professionally produced election leaflet may hold the key.

It is understood the election pamphlet – which features the iconic Lord Kitchener recruitment image and the words ‘Your Community Needs You – cost around £1,500 to print and distribute. “The only reason I can think of that more people have put forward nominations is because we spent a significant amount of our resources on a rather effective leaflet asking people to get involved,” Mr Schwarz said.

“I think the leaflet was well worth it because we have been living frugally and we don’t do extravagant things. I’m glad we spent the money this way and it’s been successful.

“I was intending to stand just to ensure we had enough numbers to keep going but have now withdrawn after discovering the huge amount of interest we have generated.”

It is understood elections have not been required at Liberton and District Community Council – which takes in neighbourhoods of Liberton, Alnwickhill, Gracemount, Mortonhall, Nether Liberton and the newer Malbet Park and Carnbee estates – since it’s formation in 2001.

Mr Schwarz explained major issues facing the new community council, but was buoyed by the depth and 
diversity of the would-be incumbents.

He said: “Planning has been a big area for us but up to now we haven’t had the manpower to deal with other things and I hope now we will be able to spread out.

“Green spaces are potentially attractive to developers and we keep a watchful eye on strategic and local planning issues in a bid to preserve and enhance these unique assets.”

Ward councillor Keith Robson said the glut of new faces would make the local body more robust and versatile in dealing with community issue.

“It’s always good to get a balance but you also need continuity so people know about the approaches that were made in the past,” he said.

“The new members can re-energise those that have been around that bit longer as well. So it can be good news all round.

Councillor Maureen Child, convener of the communities and neighbourhoods committee, said: “I’m not sure why there has been this level of ­interest in Liberton but I think in general there are more people prepared to come forward and put their shoulder to the wheel ­locally.”