All change again for Hawick Community Council as seven members quit

Hawick Community Council chairman Gillian Morgan is among seven of its members to have quit.
Hawick Community Council chairman Gillian Morgan is among seven of its members to have quit.

A second new-look community council in a matter of months is on the way for Hawick following a string of resignations.

Chairwoman Gillian Morgan, vice-chairman Graham Marshall, secretary Pauline Tottman and treasurer Keith Morgan are among seven councillors to quit the council over the last two weeks, with Lee Tottman, Maureen Lumsden and Andy Maybury also handing in resignations.

Due to its remaining membership now having fallen below the minimum number of seven required, the community council has gone into a period of abeyance, with its business being put on hold until after an election lined up for next month.

Speaking as returning officer at a meeting in Hawick Town Hall on Monday, Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall said that nominations would open on Friday, August 16, and close on Monday, September 2.

Addressing more than 200 members of the public present, Mr Marshall said: “Thank you all for coming here tonight to what you presumed to be a meeting of Hawick Community Council.

“Following receipt of a further two resignations from Hawick Community Council councillors this afternoon, the membership is now a total of six.

“In terms of the Scottish Borders Council community council scheme, a community council shall cease to operate when its membership falls to less than half.

“That is now the case for Hawick, and the community council will enter into a period of abeyance.”

If fewer than 16 nominations are received, the first meeting of the new community council will take place in the town hall on Monday, September 16.

However, if there are more nominations than the 15 places up for grabs, a public vote will be held on Monday, September 30.

Ballot papers would then be counted at the regional council’s headquarters in Newtown on Tuesday, October 4, with the new council’s inaugural meeting to be held on Monday, October 14.

Mr Marshall confirmed that the books and accounts for the community council had been handed in to council officers on Monday afternoon.

Explaining that he was not in a position to discuss anything other than the election process, he added: “I am unable to comment on other issues, but I felt that as you had all come out here tonight, someone should tell you what the situation is.

“Let’s hope we get a community council up and running very soon. It is an important part of Hawick.”

In line with council policy stating each community council must hold an election at least every four years, an election for Hawick Community Council had been due to take place next month anyway.

However, it has been brought forward by a few weeks following a tumultuous six months for the voluntary body caught up in continuous controversy since the addition of seven new councillors at a by-election in January.

A decision by some of the new members to present this year’s Hawick Cornet and cornet’s lass, Connor Brunton and Victoria Campbell, with a donation to Borders Rape Crisis in their names on behalf of the community rather than the traditional keepsake gift angered townsfolk, with critics of the new regime claiming they were not being allowed to raise town issues at meetings.

However, former secretary Mrs Tottman claimed she and some other members had been the focus of “unfounded criticism”, alleging that the antipathy towards some community councillors was related to their personal views on the issue of gender equality rather than council matters.

News of the further resignations was greeted with cheers from the public gallery on Monday, with the six remaining councillors present – Cameron Knox, French Wight, Wilson George, Duncan Taylor, Brian Bouglas and Drew Dickson – getting the backing of the room.

Marion Short, chairwoman of the community council from 2012 to 2017, said: “These six gentlemen here have put up with a lot of undue criticism for being associated with the community council.

“They should be applauded for what they have had to put up with. Cameron Knox has worked his socks off.”

Addressing the public present, Mr Knox, formerly vice-chairman of the council, said: “On behalf of the six of us sitting here tonight, I wish to thank you for coming along and showing your support.

“Hopefully, we will be re-elected and we can get back to putting town issues to the fore.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Marshall added: “Community councils play an important part in our towns and villages. Anyone interested in working with their community council is encouraged to put their name forward.

“If anyone would like an informal chat about community council life, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.”

Nomination forms will be available from tomorrow online at www.scotborders.gov.uk/ccelections, the council contact centre in High Street, or Hawick Library.