Vote to turn up the community’s voice

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This week politics got very local as the nomination process for Community Councils across the Western Isles got underway.

A Community Council is a voluntary organisation set up by statute by the Local Authority for the region and is run by residents to act on behalf of their area.

It is the most local tier of elected representation, and Community Councils play an important role in grassroots democracy.

In the Western Isles there are 27 Community Council areas, however surprisingly, not all of these currently have an active Community Council - three areas: Barvas and Brue, Laxdale and Stornoway do not have this first rung of political representation.

The Barvas and Brue area has not had an active Council since 2011; Stornoway has been inactive since before 2001 and Laxdale has been inactive since 2011.

However, in Stornoway residents’ associations seem to have taken over the Community Council role.

Similarly, there is an active residents’ association in the Laxdale area.

As well as representing the community to the Local Authority, Community Councils facilitate a wide range of activities which promote the well-being of their communities.

They advise, petition, influence and advocate numerous causes and cases of concern on behalf of local communities, including driving forward projects to enhance the area, issue newsletters; conduct surveys; campaign on issues and organise events.

These bodies do an important job in bridging the gap between Local Authorities and communities, with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Councillors making it their business to attend meetings and keep up to date with constituents’ concerns.

There are around 1,200 active Community Councils in Scotland and all Local Authorities encourage their citizens to become a member of their Community Council.

Talking about the importance of these groups a spokesperson for the Comhairle, said: “Community Councils enable activities which promote the well-being of their communities. These bodies are the most local level of elected representation and can empower communities in realising their aims and aspirations.”

Nomination papers to stand for the Islands’ Community Councils are available on the Comhairle’s website, or from any of the main Council Offices and must be returned by 4pm on Tuesday, September 17th.

Each Community Council requires a minimum of four validly nominated candidates. If more than 12 valid nominations are received an election shall be held on October 8th.

To be eligible for election to a Community Council candidates must be 16 or over and you must reside in the local area and be named on the electoral register. Each nominee for election must be supported by a proposer who must also be resident and registered in the same area.

Nominations are being invited for Community Councils based in: Ness; Airidhantuim; Barvas and Brue; Shawbost; Carloway; Breasclete; Bernera; Uig; Back; Tong; North Tolsta; Laxdale; Stornoway; Sandwick; Point; North Lochs; Pairc; Kinloch; North Harris;Scalpay; South Harris; Berneray; North Uist; Benbecula; Iochdar; Bornish; Lochboisdale; Eriskay; Northbay and Castlebay.

To find out more about the nomination process see website: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/your-council/elections-and-voting/community-council-elections/