A campaigning community council has brought real change in Dumbarton affecting all local people, according to its chair who insists the groups is open and relevant to all.
Rona Wilkinson was responding to comments made by West Dunbartonshire Community Party member Jim Bollan who recently said that the perception among citizens was that community councils were “stuffed with people you could call the blue rinse brigade”.
She argues that the biggest barrier to forcing action is getting people to know what the groups are all about and what they can achieve.
Rona, from Silverton and Overtoun Community Council, said: “Our major problem is that people don’t know what a community council is and what it can do. Maybe that was something Jim was alluding to.
“We need people to approach us and tell us what they want us to do.
“If residents have a problem, they can speak through us, come to our meetings, become a councillor.
“Whether its to do with poverty, health and safety, anything in your community, it will be discussed and action decided on as needed.
“Crucially a community council is a voice that can communicate with West Dunbartonshire Council and it’s the only body that has this power.”
And, according to Rona, one way this can be achieved is for councillors to be the go-between and to help promote the groups further.
She added: “I would ask all of West Dunbartonshire’s councillors, what can they do more to promote community councils?
“Can the community councils and the council work together more to promote what the community council are doing and encourage more, younger people?
“There are areas where there aren’t community councils including in Renton, where Jim Bollan is.
He might say there is no interest in them but I would say there is an interest. Communities are interested in what’s happening but questions need to be asked on how is that set up.
“I think Jim does think community councils are a good idea.”
Jim explained that there needed to be wider representation of all sectors of the community in order to make the organisations work for everyone.
He said: “We need to try and get people on community councils who will really represent the issues and needs of the areas they represent.
“Every community council meeting I go to is almost always dominated by planning applications.”
And although Rona agrees that it would be beneficial to have a more diverse membership, she emphasised that planning applications impact on every part of life and are an important issue for people living locally.
Silverton and Overtoun have been involved in consultation on many major planning issues including Flamingo Land and successfully campaigned against the siting of a new Our Lady and St Patrick’s High at Postie’s Park.
Currently they are one of many groups opposed to a housing development at the old St Michael’s Primary at the west end of Dumbarton and have been in contact with many other community councils in the area through this.
Rona added: “These are planning applications but they are surrounded by community issues.
“Community councils also sit on the town forum and the licensing forum. We have an input into important issues.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Silverton and Overtoun Community Council hasn’t met face-to-face but are planning to have a hybrid meeting next month where people can join digitally or in person.
Meanwhile, Bonhill and Dalmonach community council chair Jack Fordy was left shocked by the comments made by Councillor Bollan, who he sat beside at a community council meeting the night prior to his comments being made.
Jack said: “I was a bit flabbergasted by this.
“Jim Bollan has been a regular supporter of our community councils.
“He was one of the ones who kept me involved.
“He told me how it was a pillar of local democracy. He stressed how important it was.
“It’s very difficult to recruit people to work in community councils. It’s very easy to get people involved in single issue groups, but not community councils.”
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