Argyll and Bute Council have announced that the by-elections to community councils across the local authority area, postponed in the spring due to COVID-19, will now go ahead. The elections themselves will take place on November 5th, with nominations opening on Wednesday 9th September (coincidentally, the same day as our next meeting) and close on the 24th September.
What does this mean?
There are eight elected places on the Tiree Community Council. These are public elected offices, which all persons on the electoral roll for the island of Tiree may nominate to and vote for. At the last election, four people were elected (John Holliday, Phyl Meyer, Alison Clark and Gerard McGoogan).
Elected members are allowed to co-opt to fill vacancies temporarily, as well as invite others to participate on a non-voting “advisory” capacity to bring in needed skills/perspectives. TCC had brought two others in by these methods, and was working towards further co-options – but if a by-election is held any spots filled by co-option are offered up for election again.
For these reasons, this by-election will be for the four places on TCC not already filled by elected members. Previously co-opted members may of course stand for election.
How does it work and how do you put yourself forward?
Because this is a public role, there are formal procedures that have to be followed if you wish to be considered to join the community council.
- You must be eligible – meaning you must be (already, before this point) a registered elector on Tiree, 16 years old or above at the point of the election, and not excluded from holding public office (there are some types of job which include a prohibition against this). This effectively means you should be a “permanent resident” of Tiree, and this is the stated intent in the terms of the TCC constitution – anyone ceasing to be such would automatically be deemed to have resigned.
- You have to complete a Nomination Form, which two other registered electors from Tiree must sign to put you forward for election. The form is not too complicated, and assistance with completing it can be provided by existing members or by Council staff). The form must be submitted to Council staff by the deadline on September 24th.
- If nominated, and the number of nominations is less than or equal to the number of places – there is no actual election. Uncontested, valid candidates are simply deemed to be elected immediately following the close of nominations.
- If more candidates come forward than places, a vote will take place on November 5th. Due to COVID-19 this will be a postal ballot – every registered voter on Tiree will be sent a mail-in ballot to complete in advance of the election date where they can say which candidates they wish to be elected – you can vote for as many candidates as there are vacancies – in this case four. These must be returned by post before the election day.
Why should people stand?
Community Council is a vital layer of representation, with responsibility and rights to play a key role on matters such as planning policy and consultation, as well as identifying the needs and wishes of the local community and making representation to other bodies and levels of Government, etc. A strong, healthy community council can make a real difference in raising matters of concern to residents and driving forward positive changes and improvements to services, as well as supporting and promoting local culture, tourism and economy. On Tiree, we are fortunate to have organisations such as the Tiree Community Development Trust to take forward much of the practical development of work to build our community resources – it’s a huge help to them for us to be here to support good communication and representation of what people feel are priorities, and what they need, etc.
The recent pandemic has shone a powerful light on how important this function can be – TCC members played a big role in making representation to Calmac, MSPs, government ministers and others about the effect lockdown restrictions could have on our community and local economy.
Why should I stand? What could I contribute?
Many people don’t tend to think of themselves as being “political” or having the skills or expertise they think is needed to play a useful role on something like a community council – but the truth is that one of the biggest needs is for the community council to have a real breadth of voices on it, with a range of backgrounds and experiences, so that when the rest of the community look at who is supposed to be representing them what they see is reasonable reflective of themselves. The most important thing is that you have a real wish to see good done in your local community for all who call it home, and that you are willing to look at the information, ask questions and work with others to ensure that a fair reflection of the views of the community is heard, and where needed a fair decision reached on what we say or do about something.
As has been mentioned above, we can bring in additional people with expertise, skills, etc if we feel there are gaps in those which would be useful to fill – but don’t underestimate the value of the contribution you could make! A lot of what we deal with is just a matter of looking at the facts, looking at any existing rules or policies and applying a bit of common sense as to what will be good for people here on the island.
How much time does it involve? What work would I need to do?
There isn’t too much of a fixed expectation on this – it does vary. As you can imagine the existing members were all quite a bit busier with TCC business during the last several months with COVID-19 than we expected we would be!
The main expectation is that you be willing to participate in most meetings (it’s fine if you occasionally can’t make some!) – which we currently tend to hold monthly, with a gap usually in the summer and sometimes around Xmas or New Year. Since COVID-19 came along these have all been taking place as online video/phone conference calls, and this has proven to work well and be more convenient and accessible for many of us. At some point physical meetings are likely to resume, but we are keen to keep the digital option going as it is very helpful for some, especially those with care responsibilities or mobility/energy impairments.
Between meetings, there is usually a background level of emails that come in and are circulated to the members, such as the regular planning application lists and other news items and consultation requests from the Council. These can usually be dealt with in a very flexible way, as and when you can find the time, and the members can agree between themselves how tasks are split up. So for example if there was a particular task you didn’t feel able or willing to contribute to, you could say so. There might be something else you were especially keen on, and others might then bow out of that task – and so on. Ultimately this is a volunteer position, and it is always up to you – we are very keen as a group to help each other to not take on too much, and understanding of the occasional need to take a break, etc. If you are concerned about this – please do speak to one or more of the existing members.
What support and training are provided?
Argyll and Bute Council can offer induction training and guidance to newly elected councillors, and the existing members are all very keen to provide any support needed for anyone that joins us. There are often opportunities available to council members to take part in further training sessions, and to attend meetings on particular subjects where we might have a role to contribute. Being an active community councillor can be a great way of gaining transferable skills and knowledge for a current or future career, while doing something useful for your local community.
I’m not sure I could manage / accessibility:
If you are interested but are concerned about taking part in connection with caring responsibilities, or a health condition, physical, mental or sensory impairment – please get in touch to discuss. There are all sorts of things that could be done to make reasonable adjustments to ensure you have the option to be involved and take part fully – elected office should be open to everyone.
Where can I get more information?
The nomination pack is attached below, which contains some information, and there is an excellent website run nationally to support Community Councils which has a set of pages about what a community council is and what it involves for members:
We hope to see a good number of candidates come forward – Tiree has been complimented recently for the extent to which our Community Council has been organised and working, and it would be a great endorsement of how active and engaged we are as a community to see a contested election!
Contested election! That sounds scary!
Please don’t be put off by this possibility – it’s not that scary really! Your name goes on the ballot papers that go to everyone and they vote – if you are especially keen to be elected you can choose to campaign if you wish – but this can be as simple as asking for friends to vote for you, maybe doing a social media post – or nothing at all and leave it up to people who already know you if that’s what you prefer. Nobody will be dragging you on stage or putting you on TV or anything like that! The role is a form of public elected office so a democratic process is just part and parcel of that.
Getting in touch to ask questions, or for help with the process:
The current members are also keen to offer any assistance we can – if you would find it helpful to talk to one or more of us informally about what is involved, please contact us either by e-mail (you can reach the Secretary, Phyl Meyer, at firstname.lastname@example.org), via our Facebook page, or directly.
Nomination Form only 5 Nov 2020 – this is the only bit you need to print if completing a nomination form – or you can ask for one via Rona at the Council office.
There is also a series of documents on the Argyll and Bute Council website, including training resources about being a CC member, and if you’d like to delve into the more technical documentation, you can also find the “Scheme of Establishment” which defines the rules and the default constitution of the TCC here: https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/council-and-government/community-councils – it is definitely not necessary to familiarise yourself with all of this to put yourself forward however!