Councillor James Anderson was the only elected member in attendance.Councillor James Anderson was the only elected member in attendance.
Councillor James Anderson was the only elected member in attendance.

Public outrage at no-show of councillors at meeting in Duns

Date change blamed for 'mix-up'

Public outrage was expressed after the no-show of five councillors at a meeting in Berwickshire resulted in vital community funds not being allocated.

More than 30 people attended the Volunteer Hall in Duns on Wednesday, February 7, for a meeting of Berwickshire Area Partnership.

But decisions over funding applications were not taken as the chair, East Berwickshire Independent Councillor James Anderson, was the only Scottish Borders Council elected member in attendance.

The lack of councillors meant there was an insufficient ‘quorate’ for decisions to be legally made.

A clash with other meetings on the same night has been attributed by some for the failures to attend.

It has also been stated that a change of the date of the Area Partnership meeting from the first Thursday of the month had also caused an issue.

Councillor Anderson said: “I was very disappointed that the other elected members did not attend. A number of the 30-plus people attending, representing groups from across the Berwickshire area, made comments regarding the lack of attendance from other elected members.

“A couple were outraged and angry that they had taken the time to come out of their house and elected members hadn’t. One of the people attending said ‘why should we all take the time to come out on a cold winter’s night to attend these meetings when the elected members, who are paid to attend these meetings, don’t bother to turn up’?

“I accept that members’ diaries are busy but Area Partnerships are four meetings a year and they happen so we can approve funding that a funding panel of volunteers have sifted through and approved and the funding which had been approved could not be allocated on the night.

“It’s really important that the community groups feel listened to, and are listened to, and if we don’t have a quorate meeting it’s not just funding being held up, it’s people feeling unheard.”

One of the councillors not in attendance, Mid-Berwickshire Conservative councillor John Greenwell, said a clash of schedules was the reason for his non-attendance.

He said: “I set out quite clearly to the chair that I was unable to attend due to having a number of meetings at the same time as the Area Partnership, the Area Partnership meetings were always on the first Thursday of the month until recently changed by the chair. We never had a clash of meetings until this change.

“I have spoken to the chair to try and resolve this issue. I can assure you that along with my colleagues we value these meetings and do encourage everyone to attend but it’s difficult when the meetings are arranged when community council meetings are on the same night.”

Another non-attendee, Councillor Donald Moffat, the SNP’s Mid-Berwickshire representative, said the meeting clashed with a community council meeting at which he was reporting back to members.

He said: “I did say that beforehand regarding this date which was changed from the normal Thursday arrangement. So my apologies were in before the date.”

Councillor Carol Hamilton, Conservative for East Berwickshire, also questioned why the meeting date had been changed, saying: “East Berwickshire has two community council (CC) meetings on the first Wednesday of each month.

“I sent my apologies last week to say I could not attend BAP. I am sure that this meeting used to be on the first Thursday of the month, avoiding the clash with CC meetings.”

Councillor Anderson explained the reason behind the date change.

He said: “It is a difficult position to be in as chair of the Area Partnership when so many people attend and colleagues are unable to do so.

“It is well known councillors find their diaries extremely full and it is difficult at times to prioritise many important meetings.

“A change was made to the day of the meeting to accommodate elected members, community groups and representatives with the aim of enabling other groups to attend who couldn’t not attend previously on Thursday nights.

“However this is not the first time the meetings have not been quorate but is the first time the day has been changed.”

Also not in attendance at the Area Partnership were: Mark Rowley (Conservative), Mid-Berwickshire and Aileen Orr (SNP), East Berwickshire.

Both have been approached for comment.

The panel had recommended for approval at the meeting £5,000 towards the purchase of a Loose Parts Hub to be sited at Coldingham Primary School playground and £4,400 for Coldingham Community Council to purchase a new PA system.

A meeting of Teviot and Liddesdale Area Partnership on September 19 last year had to be abandoned due to a lack of elected members in attendance.