Residents wanted to fight Grangemouth's case
Volunteers are wanted to stand up for Grangemouth and get a new community council off the ground.
The town has not had a watchdog organisation for almost three years, but that is hopefully about to change with the election process now up and running.
Residents of Grangemouth and Skinflats, aged 18 and over, have until Wednesday, March 2, to step up and come forward as a potential candidate.
Falkirk Council leader Craig Martin said: “We’d like to see every community represented by an active community council. They play a key role in expressing the views of the local community to the local authority and other public bodies.
“There is information available online with everything you need to know about becoming a community councillor which will make the process easier and more accessible for potential candidates.”
There are only 17 out of a possible 23 community councils active in the Falkirk Council area at the moment. The convener from one if those active bodies knows how vital a community council can be.
Bryan Deakin (30) has been a member of Bonnybridge Community Council for four years and has been the convener for six months.
He said: “I would encourage anyone in Grangemouth or Skinflats to come forward for it – especially younger people. If there is a wide age range of people involved in the community council it makes it a more diverse group.
“It’s about helping the community and the local area. I was asked along to a meeting of Bonnybridge Community Council by a friend four years ago. I’ve always been interested in local politics so I went along and after that meeting I was co-opted onto the community council.
“I just wanted to see what it was all about and I ended up becoming part of it. Now I’m the convener.”
Bryan, who is studying for an honours degree in sustainability development at the University of the Highlands and Islands, falls into the “young” age bracket when it comes to community councils, which are still mainly made up of members who are retired or middle aged.
He said: “We’re quite open to the idea of having younger members in Bonnybridge Community. Younger people can have a different outlook on matters compared to older people, so it’s good to have a mix of both old and young.
“We use Facebook to advertise our meetings and any issues that are coming up. We are also trying to become more community orientated and inclusive.”
This new 21st century approach to community councils would benefit an area like Grangemouth, which has plenty of issues that affect it on a daily basis.
At the end of last year Falkirk Community Trust put forward proposals to close public amenities – including Grangemouth Town Hall.
This led to a public meeting in December to gauge interest in reforming the town’s community council.
Former Grangemouth Community Council secretary Malcolm Richards said: “Grangemouth has been without a community council for over two years and now there are a lot of things going on in the town. People of Grangemouth have to have their voices heard.”
The port town’s community council reluctantly resigned en masse back in June 2013, stating government ministers giving the go ahead for Forth Energy’s plans to build a combined heat and power plant at Grangemouth Docks was the “last straw”.
Community council members had spent the previous three years opposing the plans and fought against the application at a two-week public inquiry in 2012. The plan fell through in the end, but the councillors had already resigned by then.
At the time convener Walter Inglis said: “Across a broad range of issues our representations on behalf of the community are dismissed as irrelevant, ignored or not able to be funded.
“We have therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that as individuals and as a group we can no longer continue in our roles as community councillors.
“We would like to thank those individuals and organisations that have over time supported our efforts and it would be our hope that they will continue to support any subsequent community council formed to represent the views of the Grangemouth and Skinflats community.”
Now funding issues have forced Falkirk Council to talk about potentially making cuts to services throughout the area, the need for a group to stand up for the community would seem to be more important than ever.
Nominations close on Wednesday 2 March 2016 at 4pm.
For more information and applications visit www.falkirk.gov.uk/ccelectionk or call (01324) 506116 or 506118.