A very interesting cross-party political grouping has just been formed within Argyll and Bute Council – the Argyll First group. Its name says what it is about and what the priorities of its members are to be.
Its two founders are the highly respected Mid Argyll Councillor, Dougie Philand, an Independent involved with the Mid Argyll Youth Project and the ambitious community-driven Kilmory Home Farm Project. Councillor Philand resigned from the ruling coalition of Argyll and Bute Council in protest against its discriminatory treatment of the Mid Argyll Swimming Pool, under a new Board working with total commitment to secure its future.
This action was seen as wholly consistent with the straightforward and principled man Dougie Philand is recognised to be.
Along with Mr Philand in the formation of this new group, is his colleague from South Kintyre, Councillor Donald Kelly.
Donald Kelly is a Conservative who is a member of the Council’s Executive and involved with core social support organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Kintyre Crime Prevention.
Dougie Philand says that they have had ‘an intimation of interest’ from another councillor who does not wish to be named until resignation from current political group membership has been effected. Donald Kelly and Dougie Philand are to talk to their colleagues over the recess to establish where interest in joining them in this exciting cross-party initiative might exist.
The new group has wasted no time in getting to work. It has tabled its first motion to the Council
The motion, proposed by Councillor Kelly and seconded by Councillor Philand, proposes that: ‘All elected members, the Chief Executive, Executive Directors and Heads of Service take a voluntary 10% cut in their remuneration effective from 1st September 2010′.
Argyll First’s reason for proposing this move follows the recent warning by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is to be a substantial reduction in Public Service spending.
The group notes that the Council’s Leader, Dick Walsh and Sally Loudon, its CEO made it known before the last full council meeting (on 24th June 2010) that Argyll and Bute Council has to make savings of something from £9 million – £15 Million pounds each year for the next 3 years.
Argyll First believes that folk in Argyll want to see elected members taking the lead in voluntarily sharing the cuts that others will involuntarily face. This includes Council staff who are now being asked to apply for voluntary redundancy.
What is timely about the formation of this new group is that in, as its name says, putting Argyll first and in making that stance clear through cross-party membership, it is starting a very necessary realignment of political prioorities, where loyalty to party takes second place to loyalty to the region members are elecetd to serve.
This is very much in line with the way the UK coalition is working, to widespread public, if not national media, approval. In this, the action by Councillors Kelly and Philand would seem to be in tune with the beginning of a wider move away from narrow party affiliation to putting the bigger picture first.
Politicians at every level have not yet grasped how bored the electorate is with the automatic distortions that are part of the tired old inter-party name calling routines. There is a bigger picture. It is not a healthy picture now, in the country and in Argyll.
People want to see politicians putting that picture first and working to that end as a team – which is why the UK coalition is popular. In Argyll, people will be interested in this enlightened initiative and will be encouraged by it.