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Where are our councillors? Questions asked at Wick meeting over the 'silent three'


By David G Scott

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Questions are being asked about the "silence" of three Wick councillors who are claimed to have repeatedly missed community council meetings.

An online meeting of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC) had several members ask questions over "no shows and no reports" from three Highland Councillors – namely, Willie Mackay, Andrew Sinclair and Jill Tilt.

RBWCC member Allan Bruce said: "I would like this on record – we've got four [Highland] councillors that have been voted in by the public and it would be good to know what they're up to and what fights they're fighting." He went on to say that Highland councillor Raymond Bremner had, however, been submitting weekly updates.

Wick and East Caithness councillors Willie Mackay (left) and Andrew Sinclair. Questions were asked at a recent community council meeting regarding their attendance. Picture: DGS
Wick and East Caithness councillors Willie Mackay (left) and Andrew Sinclair. Questions were asked at a recent community council meeting regarding their attendance. Picture: DGS

RBWCC vice chair Allan Farquhar said that a letter would be drafted for the attention of the Wick and East Caithness councillors to explain where they think "things are failing".

"I'm trying to find out if it's a county-wide thing or it's a Highland Council policy right across the board but we can only start with ourselves first," he added.

"At the end of the day it's the public that vote them in and they deserve to know what's going on," said Mr Bruce.

Chair Joanna Coghill felt frustrated by the "no shows and no reports from Highland councillors" but added that RBWCC was grateful for the many reports it receives from councillor Raymond Bremner. "I can see he is very active on his media sites keeping the residents of Wick and surrounding areas in the loop with projects and updates on Highland Council works – ongoing, or planned."

She said that Councillor Bremner seems to "be doing the work of four" and that she has asked vice chair Allan Farquhar to find out what the remaining "silent three" are doing for our side of Caithness.

Councillor Jill Tilt sent her apologies to Wick's community council saying she 'had a long-standing private appointment at the same time'. Picture: Alan Hendry
Councillor Jill Tilt sent her apologies to Wick's community council saying she 'had a long-standing private appointment at the same time'. Picture: Alan Hendry

It is understood there has been a convention that councillors rotate between community councils, so that one councillor should be present at each community council meeting throughout the area.

Councillor Bremner spoke to the John O'Groat Journal to help explain the situation.

He said: “The councillors rotate between community councils each year. Given the size of the town of Wick, I’ve tried to support them with other councillors over the period of the council term but not all councillors may be able to give up that time.

"Some councillors are attending more than one community council. Given the fact that there are seven community councils in total in this side of the county to support, many of them, I’m sure, will be happy with that support. I’d like to see a system that tries to feed common interest in a single report for all community councils and we are trying to find a way to do that by supporting the Association of Caithness Community Councils which is open to all community councils to attend.

"Recently, nearly all Caithness councillors attended that meeting. That might be able to help reduce frustration and help out where there are time constrictions. We need to make sure that we support the community councils at the level that helps them do their job.”

Lib Dem councillor Jill Tilt was only elected to her position in August last year but RBWCC members felt they did not yet know her. "We gave her time to settle in bit it's January now and we still don't know her and what she's doing," said Mrs Coghill.

Mrs Tilt said she had already sent apologies to the RBWCC saying she "had a long-standing private appointment at the same time" as the meeting. The other two Wick councillors were contacted and Andrew Sinclair provided a comment after the print version of this article appeared on Friday. He said: "It has been a long-standing convention that councillors attend community councils on a rotational basis, changing yearly. This has been the case since before I was even elected."

Highland councillor Andrew Sinclair said 'it’s quite disappointing that Wick Community Council have taken this tone'. Picture: DGS
Highland councillor Andrew Sinclair said 'it’s quite disappointing that Wick Community Council have taken this tone'. Picture: DGS

Mr Sinclair added: "Those of us who haven’t attended Wick Community Council this year simply aren’t allocated there right now. This has been explained to Wick Community Council several times in the past. Every community council has one allocated Highland councillor per year. There are seven other community councils in the area we cover, not just Wick CC.

"Only one Highland councillor will ever normally attend a community council in a given year, then we rotate to different ones the following year. This makes it more manageable for everyone involved.

"We all try to attend our allocated community councils as much as we possibly can, but we each have so many commitments to balance it can be very difficult at times. I think every other community council is generally very understanding, so it’s quite disappointing that Wick Community Council have taken this tone."


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