THE first secret ballot in the history of Innerleithen & District Community Council will take place next Thursday.
Bizarrely, the poll will see seven candidates vying for eight places on the body which represents the Tweedside town and its outlying settlements of Cardrona and Traquair.
One of the hopefuls, Brian McCrow, who has been a community councillor for three years, explained: “When we called the election two months ago, we were looking to fill five places and had eight candidates, but since then the former number has increase to eight and the latter fallen to seven.
“Our system has always been that each member serves a three year stint, so with so many standing down, we sought nominations with more wanting to be on the community council than available places.”
Mr McCrow, from Cardrona, said the outgoing community council had favoured a postal ballot as the fairest, most democratic means of electing new members, but this, he claimed, had been ruled out by local Tweeddale representatives on Scottish Borders Council on the grounds that the estimated cost of £1,500 could not be justified.
“However, when we told SBC that eight members, and not five, were standing down, we were told that we must go ahead with a ballot anyway as per the original notice,” said Mr McCrow.
Thus, two polling stations, at the Memorial Hall in Innerleithen and at Cardrona Village Hall will be open from 4-8pm on July 14, with returning officer Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East) supervising the subsequent count.
“It may seem a bit strange having an election of seven people for eight places, but I would urge a large turnout so that all the members are properly mandated and we have support for the many important decisions we face,” said Mr McCrow.
He added: “Key issues include the expansion of mountain biking, a skatepark at the school, the development of the Memorial Hall as a community facility, improvements at Caerlee Mill and the developments for various bands and sports clubs at Victoria Park.
“The new community council will also oversee the completion of the cycleway/walkway from Innerleithen to Glentress and onto Peebles, the implementation of superfast broadband and the resolution of the gap site eyesore in Innerleithen.”
A notable absentee from next week’s poll will be Ross McGinn who has stood down after 16 years as chairman and 25 years with the community council.
Mr McGinn declined to comment on rumours that he will seek election in the Tweeddale East ward in next May’s Scottish Borders Council elections.
Apart from Mr McCrow, the following contenders will take part in next week’s community council poll: Neil Andrew, Damside; Laura Bennett, Traquair Road; Timothy Clancey, Princes Street, Marshall Douglas, Plora Terrace; Stuart Lobb, St Ronan’s Terrace, all Innerleithen; and Neil Cummings of Mains Farm Steading, Cardrona.
Meanwhile, nominations for candidates for Jedburgh Community Council close at noon on Monday with forms available at the town library and contact centre.
An election is required because the number of elected members has fallen to five – below the required minimum of six – meaning there are seven places available.
“Community councils play a vital role and anyone who is interested should pick up a nomination form as soon as possible,” said Returning Officer Len Wyse, who represents the town on Scottish Borders Council.
In Newcastleton, where there has been no community council for two years because of lack of members, nominations for a revived body run from today until noon on Thursday, August 4.
Forms are available from Holm Hardware on South Hermitage Street, other local shops and from Clare Malster on 01835 826626.
There are 12 places available. If there are between six and 12 nominations a new community council will be declared on August 11. If there are more than 12, a ballot will take place.