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Being a Highland Councillor - Year One


Another councillor pointed out to me that yesterday it was a year since we were elected to Highland Council. It's an anniversary about which I confess I have mixed feelings as while the votes were counted and the results declared I was in Hampshire speaking the eulogy at my mother's funeral.

So she never got to hear my news, but I hope she would have been proud of me.

The front of my election postcard
The postcard which we posted through a lot of doors in Nairn

It's been a long year and, if you take it seriously, council is a lot of work.

As well as Full Council which meets seven times a year I believe that I am also, for my sins, on more committees than any other Highland councillor. So that's:

  • Audit and Scrutiny Committee
  • Corporate Resources Committee
  • Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board (Substitute)
  • Highland Licensing Board (Vice Convener)
  • Highland Licensing Committee
  • Nairnshire Committee (Vice Chair)
  • Planning Review Body
  • Pensions Committee
  • South Planning Applications Committee (Vice Chair)

The four licensing and planning committees meet nine times a year and the others typically meet four.

It doesn't stop there either. On top of this there's monthly Ward Business Meetings and I'm on the council's Central Safely Committee and (pensions) Investment Sub-Committee, both of which meet regularly, and I'm a member of the Appeals and Disputes Committee (where council employees grievances are heard) which meets as necessary.

I'm also the chair of the board of Highland Opportunity (Investments) Limited where I sit as a representative of the council, which owns the company.

On top of this there are five community councils in my ward, of which three are currently active so we try to attend most of their meetings.

So next week for example I've got Licensing Committee and Board all day on Tuesday (followed by two party meetings), a Ward Business Meeting on Wednesday morning, followed by Full Council all day on Thursday.

All of these need prep too. Some committees come with 500+ pages of papers to read so that takes yet more time.

I've also tried to keep my community informed on what is going on so I have a Substack blog to which I post most weeks and which then goes out by email to subscribers and a link to which is posted on all my social media.

And then of course there's the casework, dealing with individual people's problems. Over the last year that has included homelessness, planning issues, road sweeping, short term let licensing, gritting, parking issues, drains (both "sweet" and foul), holes in the road, council housing estate facilities, ASL provision, rats, dog poo bins, school buses, speed limits at various locations, disabled access, neighbour disputes, school smart boards, car charging points, bus routes, the need for a bigger council house, cemetery issues, witnessing documents, climate change, disabled parking bays, recycling centre opening hours, and more.

In truth as a "back bench" councillor this is where I get most of my successes but what shines through in all of this is that you are getting things done and making people's lives better, and that's a good feeling.

It's also keeping me busy, which is a good as in truth drifting into proper retirement was making me lazy so that's no bad thing.

Tags: local politics, Nairn, SNP Written 07/05/23

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