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Community / Lerwick community councillors not keen on boundary idea which splits town in two

Photo: Jim Mullay

AN IDEA to have two community councils in Lerwick was not given a particularly warm welcome by members of the town’s community council at a meeting on Monday evening.

The proposal is one of five options which form part of a Shetland-wide consultation on the boundaries of community councils.

It would see all of Shetland’s community councils mirror the SIC wards – so there would be Lerwick North and Bressay, and also Lerwick South.

The consultation went up for discussion at the town’s community council meeting on Monday evening, but there was no support from members for that particular option.

Karen Fraser said: “I think that one doesn’t make sense for Lerwick because Lerwick doesn’t have a natural boundary north and south, even though they have it for the elected SIC members.

“I just canna see that working.”

Lerwick Community Council chairman Jim Anderson also felt it would not be a good solution.

No decisions have been made on the boundaries, and community councils – as well as members of the public – are able to have their say as part of the ongoing process.

At the moment there are 18 community councils across Shetland, but they have often suffered from a lack of interest when it comes to elections.

The last major review of Shetland’s community council scheme was undertaken in the 1990s.

A number of options on boundaries are being presented in the first phase of consultation, with the first being the status quo of 18 community councils.

Option two is to create a new islands with small populations community council, and adjust the boundaries of the Dunrossness and Sandness and Walls community councils.

A third option is to introduce the ‘small populations’ community council, maintain the existing status for the remaining islands and create five new mainland community councils that match SIC ward boundaries.

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As well as the option to have only seven community councils which match SIC wards, a final idea is to increase the overall number to 20 by creating new community councils for Fair Isle and Foula.

There was a general unease at the Lerwick Community Council meeting about offering views on other parts of Shetland.

There was support from some, however, for creating an islands with small population community council.

But it was noted that the Papa Stour community for instance may feel closer to the West Mainland rather than another island like Fair Isle.

Lerwick community councillor Amanda Hawick also said that merging some mainland community councils could result in more representation, given a lack of take-up in elections.

But one thing was clear – there was no desire to have Lerwick split into two.

There was also praise for the work of Bressay Community Council, and a warning against diluting its authority.

Meanwhile Stewart Hay felt that the SIC should be consulting first on powers of community councils before looking at boundaries.

“I’ve always thought we’ve got this the wrong way round,” he said. “The rationale should have started with powers.”

“To me a community council is distinct from an islands council or a national government – the essence is community, and it’s small,” he added.

“To ask us about boundaries and membership, is all related to the power you’re going to give to a body and how you see it being represented.”

Shetland Islands Council is hosting a number of drop-in events across Shetland in the coming weeks for communities to have their say on the proposals.

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