The Way I See It by Jim McGillivray
To the winner belongs the spoils.
After years as the main opposition group to the Highland Council, SNP councilors are now the dominant people in the administration hierarchy.
Last Thursday’s board meeting was when the goodies were distributed and the key faces for the coming years were elected.
With the new head of administration hailing from Wick and the organizer from Badenoch, I was hopeful that there might be some dilution of Inverness’s long-standing hegemony. I now have doubts.
In recent years, as a token observance of the localism agenda, those elected to chair regional committees such as the Sutherland County Committee have been awarded a small pay rise in recognition of the office extra work involved.
This was removed in one fell swoop last Thursday and the money (a hefty sum of nearly £6,000) was aggregated and allocated to the salary of the chairman of the Inverness town committee.
To adapt the words of George Orwell, all regional committees are equal, but one regional committee is more equal than all the others put together.
The money at stake is minor, but there is a clear principle at stake, and I seconded my fellow East Sutherland and Edderton Ward Councilor Richard Gale’s amendment to have this reviewed.
However, the administration closed ranks and the amendment was defeated by a vote of 34 to 30.
So much for localism in this new council.
A few more figures that will affect us all: the council’s average external debt for the last financial year was £943m with associated borrowing costs of £58.2m.
The annual General Capital Grant which comes from the Scottish Government is £23.444 million, roughly the equivalent of two primary schools.
With Skye’s President and Vice President for Education, you can guess where the next batch of new primary schools will be.
The approximate cost of a new secondary school is not much less than £60million by the time the snags are sorted.
With the Chairman of Corporate Resources based in Tain, I suspect the campaign for a replacement for Tain Royal Academy will now gain new momentum.
This needs to be seen in the context of the £1.75bn capital outlay over 15 years proposed by the last Indie-Lib-Dem-Lab administration.
The question must be asked, are these costly local ambitions affordable by a municipality that has maximized its credit?
Inflation approaches 10% per year. Interest rates are rising; there is a cost of living crisis and there will be major public sector wage demands to settle over the next few months.
The economic winter has begun, and the seasonal winter will soon follow.
Finally, I was very honored to be elected again as one of three Ward Councilors for East Sutherland and Edderton.
I will do my best to live up to the trust placed in me. And be patient with newly elected councilors. This is an almost vertical learning curve.
Jim McGillvray, who lives in Embo, was re-elected in the Highland Council elections on May 5 for another term as ward councilor for East Sutherland and Edderton.