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Do ye ken whit ye should hiv done?

“The time has come the walrus said, to speak of many things. Of sailing ships and sealing wax, and Community Council Elections”. What did you say? You didn’t know the Community Council had elections? Well, you would be half right!

The RBLCC acquired a new constitution (provided by SLC) four years ago, which dictated we should have an election immediately to officially form - or reform if you like - the RBLCC and should then have a new election every four years thereafter.

But, at that ‘election’ in 2014, we needed to have at least 15 eager members of the community to enable a ‘contested’ election and, lacking more than 14 applicants, those who did put their names forward were automatically elected. It is a great pity when such elections turn out to be shoo-in results. If an election is contested, i.e. there are more standing for election than there are places to be filled, it achieves two beneficial results.

One is that it allows any member of the community, who is interested in the community, to have the opportunity to make a personal considered choice regarding who should be appointed to represent the community! 

The other is that those subsequently elected, having survived the hustle and bustle of the hustings (I use the term loosely, in Lanark the hustings equate to a quiet chat with folks in the High Street or Tesco’s) and can feel empowered, and quietly chuffed, that people actually voted for them. It is recognised as a mandate from the community, filling the successfully elected individual with a touch of civic pride and the feeling that more folk like him/her than the other unelected her/him!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How did this army (OK, platoon) of volunteer citizens, who look after so many aspects and events in the daily life of our Royal and Ancient Burgh, come to exist anyway? 

It all started in the mid-seventies when some well-meaning civil servant decided that big was better and designed a system whereby, instead of the people of Lanark being represented by 15 unpaid volunteer councillors based in Lanark (roughly one councillor for every 450 members of the electorate) to a much more efficient system of three councillors representing Lanark. but based in Hamilton. Eventually after a series of ‘tweaks’ and roughly one councillor for every 2,300 members of the electorate, it’s funny how “big is better” worked out intit?

To aid the heavy workload of the new councillors and to ensure that they had help in maintaining contact with the hoi polloi, it was felt that local volunteer groups could be instituted to give them a hand and lo and behold! Community Councils were to be created!

And, as it was written, so it was done! The RBLCC was created and has – often with difficulty – struggled to survive and support the Royal Burgh of Lanark ever since, and through a whole kaleidoscope of bigger and better (well bigger at least) local administration set-ups including Clydesdale District Council (originally Lanark District Council, but that apparently wasn’t inclusive enough, even in Lanarkshire!), Clydesdale District and Strathclyde Regional (twice as many bureaucrats for only double the money!), and subsequently South Lanarkshire Council. Another four years, maybe another re-organisation, hello Lanarkshire, haven’t we met before?

Throughout all of these local government machinations there has always been one wee fly in the ointment (I jest, it was more of a massive pterodactyl that would have even terrified Indiana Jones), none of these newly – and frequently created - local authority administrations were heavily into devolution! Methinks the apple has not fallen far from the tree in that regard!.

As a result, no formal responsibility or authority has ever (or is ever likely to be) devolved from those of the ‘big’ council, to those on the ‘wee’ council. Not even in the management of our own Lanark Common Good Fund and assets. Although, to be fair (I am, occasionally!) a much closer and better collaboration has developed between the two in recent years, to the great benefit of Lanark.

The prime function of the RBLCC has always been and remains, to act as a liaison between the community of Lanark and the three representatives of that community elected to the hallowed halls of the county town of Hamiltonshire. This, I think, we do rather well and rather easily, given the excellent trio of SLC councillors who currently represent Clydesdale North.

In addition of course, the RBLCC amuse ourselves - and hopefully the community we represent - in myriad little ways throughout the calendar year, with such ancient “Aye Beens” as the Het Pint; Whuppity Scoorie: Poncing about at the Lanimers; Strictly Come Dancing (recently reinvigorated); managing Lanark’s Annual Poppy Collection and our Remembrance Service; and the jewel in our crown since it’s re-establishment in 2013, our annual Burgess Ticket Awards to deserving members of our community.

Apart from requiring more than 14 candidates standing for election in order to avoid the humiliating shoo-in scenario, we need fresh faces, fresh blood, fresh thinking, fresh ideas.  We need you!

We not only need the “dyed in the wool” Lanarkian, we need the new residents of our town who had options open to them about where to rest their heads at night – and who chose to come and live here!  

What we don’t need are any of those in our community whose byword is second only to “It’s Aye Been” as a Lanark mantra – those who contribute absolutely nothing to the commonwealth of Lanark but who are always willing, at every opportunity, to tell us – Do you know what you should have done!”

If you fancy putting your name on the ballot, and bear in mind that even if you are not elected you will have made a massive contribution by ensuring we do have a genuine election, Nomination Forms can be obtained from The Tolbooth; from any current RBLCC member; or on-line via; frank.gunning@yahoo.co.uk

Don’t tell us what we should have done, come and help us to do it!

Frank

Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.