Two parallel universes must exist in the council chamber in Fort William, as the press department sanctioned version of proceedings at the local area committee meeting differs from my experience of the same meeting. An important item on the agenda was the agreement of a set of priorities for Lochaber. These include things like the long-talked-about A830 extension, a long-term sustainable crossing at the Corran Narrows, and an indoor training centre for the town. The list was agreed by all seven Lochaber councillors over a year ago. Yet, since then it disappeared into the headquarters of the council, quietly forgotten or ignored.
Despite, questioning the Leader of the Council in the spring, about what her administration was doing to implement our priorities, little has happened. Then all of sudden our suggestions get spat out of council HQ and presented to another committee meeting for discussion. Only on this occasion, we are visited by the Deputy Leader of the Council on a day-trip from his council ward in Tain. When I asked him why it had taken a year for the administration to consider our priorities, he couldn’t answer. When I asked what work had been undertaken by council officers on each of our priorities, he couldn’t tell me. Then he had to ask what our proposal for an A830 extension was all about. Not realising that it was a connecting road between the A830 and the A82 to ease traffic pressure at Nevis Bridge and along North Road. It’s somewhat surprising that someone so senior within the council had no knowledge about a key priority for our area, when it has been raised numerous time in Inverness, including by me at a meeting in September. The project is also on the council’s own capital programme, although with no money committed to complete it.
The official council press release quotes the Deputy Leader saying, “Coming here today has given me a much clearer understanding of the specific issues affecting people in Lochaber and the work needed to address these.” Yet, he clearly knew nothing about most of the issues. He then goes on to say, “…the local Members have done a great job in agreeing on priorities for their own wards,” but fails to mention that these priorities remained ignored by his administration for over a year. I suspect, from experience, they will remain ignored for even longer by the decision-makers in Inverness.