Let’s not discuss anything that might prove controversial or be misconstrued ahead of the referendum. That seems to be the attitude of those councillors and officers that set the agenda for yesterday’s Lochaber Area Committee. Other than a few important items on local policing and grounds maintenance, most of the agenda was as bland as a bowl of cold tapioca. I found myself scrawling the word pointless, alongside several items on the agenda paper. Did we really need to discuss a list of possible groups to go on a new community panel? And why were we presented with a list of projects receiving funding, to be told if we wanted any detail on individual projects we would have to wait until another meeting, which is always held in private. And what councillor is going to disagree with a motion to “Agree that Members and officers work in collaboration with community representatives in delivering the outcomes identified,”?
After such a positive start to the new Lochaber Area Committee, something all the local councillors fought hard to get, it seems to have lost steam.
However, amongst some pointlessness, there were useful debates on key local issues:
The local police commander, in response to my question, revealed that he had not been formally approached by the organisers of the Deloitte End-to-End Bike Ride, which will see 800 cyclists cause havoc as they ride along the A82 in Lochaber. Chief Inspector Gough’s view was that the event should not go ahead, but as it was not a race the organisers did not require a licence to go ahead. Cllr Bren Gormley observed the cost of policing the event, would far outweigh the amount raised for charity.
Poor performance by council contractors responsible for grass-cutting was discussed again. I await clarification of several unanswered questions. Officers didn’t know where the person responsible for monitoring the contract in Lochaber and making routine inspections is based. I am pretty sure it isn’t in Lochaber, as no one seems to have come across this mysterious individual. No one seemed to know if we were using locally-based council staff, who are already out-and-about in the area, to make ad-hoc inspections of completed work. The report told us we had agreed the recovery of inspection costs with the contractor, but no-one could tell me how much.
A routine housing performance report gave an opportunity to ask about the current programme of replacing heating systems in council houses. Many residents have approached me concerned that their electricity bills have spiralled following the installation of air-source heating, with some forced to switch off their heating altogether to save money. I haven’t seen any assessment of the likely costs, before these new systems were installed and whether the council should be doing this without improving insulation in these houses.