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Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee

Local Government: The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Regulations 2021 - 13 September 2021

Letter to the Convener from Craig Hatton, Chief Executive and Returning Officer, North Ayrshire Council - 13 September 2021

Dear Ms Burgess

Local Government: The North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Regulations 2021

Thank you for inviting me to give evidence to the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee regarding the North Ayrshire (Electoral Arrangements) Regulations 2021. Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, I am unable to attend the Committee meeting. I have therefore provided some comments below:

The Council had no objections to the timescales or how the consultation process on new Electoral wards and Councillor numbers was conducted by Boundaries Scotland. The Council had ample time to respond to the proposals, and Boundaries Scotland was proactive in publicising their proposals in the local press and via their social media channels.

The Council, and the North Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership, supported Boundaries Scotland with their consultation process by sharing key messages and recommendations with residents, community councils and community groups via our websites, social media platforms and in our Customer Service Centres and Community Hubs which were in operation during the Covid pandemic.

The criteria used by Boundaries Scotland in determining ward boundaries and Councillor numbers was detailed in all of their communications.

The Council, at its meeting on 23 September 2020, discussed the proposals by Boundaries Scotland at length and agreed to support the recommendations on how the North Ayrshire area is represented. The Report and associated Minutes of the Council meeting are available via the links below:

Report to North Ayrshire Council on 23 September 2020 - Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland Consultation on Review of North Ayrshire Ward Boundaries

Minutes of North Ayrshire Council Meeting held on 23 September 2020

The Council’s approach to community empowerment is viewed by both the Scottish Government and CoSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) as sector leading. However, current arrangements have made it difficult for Elected Members to be fully involved in the overall planning and allocation of resources to different localities, for example, the current ward 6 cuts across three locality areas, all with differing needs and priorities.

The Council has sought the alignment of electoral wards with our locality areas since the previous review of Electoral arrangements in 2015. The Council therefore welcomes the proposal by Boundaries Scotland to align the new electoral wards with our six locality boundaries as increasingly the business of Council, our Community Planning Partnership and community organisations is done on a locality basis.

The single Member ward for Arran is also welcomed. This ties in with our locality approach and reflects our work in terms of ‘Island proofing’. The single Member ward addresses concerns by Arran residents and community groups that continuing to be part of a mixed mainland/island ward could result in no resident councillor, and given that much of the community work on the island takes place in the evening when ferries no longer run, it would be difficult for non-resident councillors to fully engage in that work.

Having said that, this cannot be guaranteed as Electoral law allows candidates to stand for any Council ward if they either live or work within North Ayrshire or an immediately adjoining authority. Nevertheless, as Arran is to be a single ward, only Arran voters would determine this.

The Council looks forward to Minsters agreeing the Boundaries Scotland proposals to allow us to prepare for the Scottish Local Government Elections in May 2022.

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely
Craig Hatton
Chief Executive and Returning Officer

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