Council slammed following shock resignations from community council

Peebles Community Council vice-chairman Scott Rae, and chairman Les Turnbull.Peebles Community Council vice-chairman Scott Rae, and chairman Les Turnbull.
Peebles Community Council vice-chairman Scott Rae, and chairman Les Turnbull.
Peebles Community Council has been rocked by the shock resignation of both the chair and vice-chair amid claims of bullying and having their views ignored by elected members and officers of Scottish Borders Council.

The resignations were triggered by a catalogue of frustrations over a long period, which led to a tense and difficult relationship with the previous Tweeddale Councillors.

And a desire to re-set that relationship with the six new elected members turned sour pretty swiftly with chairman, Les Turnbull, slamming their response to the community council’s concerns to the town’s anti-social behaviour problems as “disingenuous, discourteous and unprofessional.”

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However, there is a back story to the resignations and a build-up of circumstances.

Mr Turnbull has served on the community council for six years, but his tenure as chairman for over three years has been blighted by accusations of breaching data protection, after he supplied a local reporter with the legitimate recording of the community council’s public meeting held online due to Covid restrictions.

A move which Mr Turnbull says he was “bullied” into apologising for by the previous administration.

This alleged breach was thrown out by the Information Commissioner as “not serious or significant” enough to be investigated.

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In a statement to Peebles Community Council, Mr Turnbull said he is “scunnered” by the “antics” of the local authority, including some of its officers and councillors.

“SBC is not interested in what people have to say or the community council on their behalf,” he said. “Whilst councillors and SBC in general talk of community empowerment and engagement and working with the community, they are only interested in this if it agrees with their own narrow view and they seek views of the community, it seems, only to tick boxes.

“You will all remember that I was pilloried by councillors over the data breach debacle; indeed bullied by them even though I had offered an apology. I believe this was an attempt to shut me, and by extension you, the community council, down.”

The newly installed puffin crossing on the Eastgate has also been a matter of controversy, with Mr Turnbull stating it was “forced through” in spite of a large body of objection in the town.

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The chairman wrote to Tweeddale councillors with grave concerns of anti-social behaviour. With no reply forthcoming, the community council posted a questionnaire online seeking the views of residents.

However, Mr Turnbull was dismayed when he did receive an email, which was also posted on Councillor Julie Pirone’s facebook page.

“To then publish the response, addressed to me as chairman of the community council, on social media before I had had a chance to read it and discuss with colleagues, and to then present the letter as a response to our petition was disingenuous, discourteous and unprofessional.”

Vice-chair, Scott Rae, added: “It’s become clear that we, the lowest level of local democracy and the one closest to, most representative of and most available to the people of Peebles, have little support from our council or its elected representatives and are often ignored or belittled when we raise concerns on major issues in the town.”

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A statement from SBC said: “We note Mr Turnbull and Mr Rae’s decisions to step down. We thank them for their service on behalf of the community of Peebles, and look forward to working positively with the new members of the community council.”