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June 3, 2009

Mass resignations from Perthshire community

Community councils are often at odds with their local authority. Such is the nature of local politics. However, the relationship appears to have broken down completely in one part of Perthshire.  Amid claims of being continually attacked and undermined by Perth and Kinross Council, every member of Scone Community Council has resigned in protest

THERE WERE astonishing scenes last night as every member of a Perthshire community council resigned amid claims the body had been wilfully “attacked and undermined” by Perth and Kinross Council.

The unprecedented move came as members of Scone Community Council insisted they had received “precious little support” from the council when tackling issues of local concern.

They also attacked local councillor Lewis Simpson, who once likened community activists to racist thugs the Ku Klux Klan.

At a monthly meeting which turned out to anything but routine, community council members each signed a statement making clear their disgust at the local authority.

“Scone Community Council has become very frustrated regarding the role it should play within the community,” they said.

“We believe that its role is to try and benefit the whole of the community and improve the quality of life within it.

“Within this role we also have a clear duty to establish and represent the views of the people of Scone.

“It is, however, our belief that given the size and population of the village this is a near- impossible task.”

Members feel they have had little back-up from the council and even claim to have been “undermined.”

They said, “Unlike our paid councillors, the community council has no organisational or political infrastructure and we have precious little support from Perth and Kinross Council.

“All the fine words contained in council and government publications about community councils come to nothing when we are faced with the hard reality of fulfilling our role with the restricted budget and limited time and manpower at our disposal.

“We do not always agree with the way Perth and Kinross Council deals with matters concerning Scone and at times we have expressed our views robustly.

“This does not, however, justify the way the community council and individuals within it have been attacked and undermined at every opportunity.”

Plans for large-scale housing developments and building a supermarket in Scone have caused consternation of late but community representatives clearly feel their concerns have been ignored.

“We have had virtually no help or support from Perth and Kinross Council and no form of training has been offered or made available to community councillors.

“No advice has been forthcoming and no official from the appropriate section of Perth and Kinross Council has ever attended a meeting of Scone Community Council.”

Members insist they have been targeted and even smeared by the council.

“There has been no shortage of criticism and innuendo to the effect that we were not conducting our affairs properly,” they said.

“In response to these we asked on more than one occasion that any accusation made or issue that the council had with Scone community council should specify exactly what they were and who made them.

“We then asked for a meeting to discuss these accusations and asked who would be in attendance at such a meeting but the council was not prepared to agree to any of our requests in this context.

“This meeting has therefore never taken place.”

When contacted by The Courier a spokesman for Perth and Kinross said the authority would not comment on the situation.

Members of the community council also launched an attack on local Perth and Kinross Council members, accusing them of following their “own political agenda.”

In particular, Mr Simpson was criticised for disrupting meetings by raising issues that were not set down for discussion.

The councillor was attacked for likening community campaigners to “a secret society like the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Public meetings of the community council have been deliberately disrupted in order to cause maximum alarm and upset as we have tried to go about our monthly business,” the community councillors continued.

“Members have been verbally abused and accused by Councillor Simpson of being like the racist organisation the Ku Klux Klan.

“This was extremely upsetting, derogatory and demeaning to members of the community council.

“When we voiced opposition or objected to large-scale housing developments, supermarkets and re-routing of the flight path at Perth Airport by holding public meetings, we received no support from our then Perth and Kinross Councillors who seemed to be following their own political agenda.

“Their suggestion was that we should disband the Scone Planning Issues Group, which had been set up to highlight these issues.”

Members said they were resigning in disgust as they could see no improvement on the horizon.

“Being a community councillor should be a positive and fulfilling experience and this may be so in other community councils,” they added.

“Sadly it is not the case in Scone.

“For simply trying to fulfil the role of the community council we have been constantly sniped at, verbally and through the press, by Perth and Kinross officials and councillors.”

Their mass resignation was tendered last night, with immediate effect.