Discover more from Paul Oldham’s Newsletter
Year 2, Week 26
LEIP and the academy, Area Committee, harbour options, Common Good, a new newspaper, speed limits, fireworks, Nairn BID, play equipment, Council budget ...
Buckle up folks because this is going to be a long one, but there’s a lot of important things in here.
LEIP funding for schools
You may have seen scary headlines on Monday saying that the "Scottish Government REJECTS all Highland school funding bids". Just to reassure everyone this is the school bids in the third round of LEIP funding, so St Clements, and Park, Dunvegan, and Beauly primaries.
Nairn Academy was a bid in the second round of LEIP and we won that round so we have the funding and it is going ahead. In addition just outside our ward Tornagrain Primary, which is mainly being funded from developer contributions, is also still going ahead.
Parents in other areas are less happy mind you, as my mailbox reveals, and we now have to think about where we can go from here on those schools.
Nairnshire Area Committee
Area Committee met on Monday. The papers are here and you can watch it online here but it was a fairly short meeting as there wasn’t a lot to discuss and agree but there were some items which may be of interest in the “Good News” item.
In particular Michael Green announced the awarding of the contract for a Harbour Options Appraisal which will be funded by the Council’s Regeneration Fund and by HIE. It is looking at options to cater for increased capacity for boats in Nairn and also the possibility of getting cruise ships to be able to berth and for their passengers to come into Nairn.
Just to be clear this appraisal has not been agreed by Area Committee, it’s something Michael has come up with on his own, and it’s not been funded by the Common Good.
Common Good Engagement Group
The Area Committee also discussed the proposed Common Good Engagement Group which is now, finally, coming together with a paper being submitted to the committee for agreement.
The purpose of the group is to meet community aspirations to have a stronger role in Common Good Fund policy without compromising the legal requirement for Common Good decisions to be taken at Area Committee. So what this means in practice is that the group will discuss proposals relating to Common Good land and help give a steer on what the community thinks to councillors, who ultimately have to make decisions.
The paper proposes a group made up of representatives from organisations across the town including two representatives from the Highland Youth Parliament. This will now go out to consultation and it’s hope that the January Area Committee will then be able to confirm this with a view to going live around April 2024.
Nairnshire Community Newspaper
There will be a public meeting at 7:30pm on Thursday, 16th November at the Community Centre to discuss the launch of a new weekly newspaper for Nairnshire. A poster has been circulated but here’s the text.
The Nairnshire Telegraph, an institution we had come to rely on for accurate and professional local news reporting, alongside its role as a powerful voice for Nairnshire, faded into the mists of time. It left behind a massive vacuum in the everyday life of Nairnshire and its community. Indeed, in the ongoing LPP consultation, the lack of the A96 Bypass was cited as a main concern, closely followed by the need for the creation of a successor to the 'Nairnshire'.
Recognising the vital importance of a truly local newspaper for Nairnshire, a group of concerned people drawn from the community organised a steering group to explore the possibility of setting up a non-profit Nairnshire Community Newspaper. The steering group has been working diligently over the last few months to come up with a range of proposals for consultation.
One constant in all successful Community Newspapers, irrespective of size and circulation, is the support of their local community. On that basis, we cordially invite all organisations, societies and groups, sporting, cultural, and artistic, churches and faith communities, Third Sector organisations and individuals who would be keen to hear more and contribute, to the Open Meeting
This is the chance for local people to get actively involved and create a newspaper to give Nairnshire back a voice it has lacked for too long.
Nairnshire Community Newspaper Steering Group: Cllr. Michael Green, Rev. Steven Manders, Sheena Baker, Paul MacDonald, Des Scholes, Graham Stuart, David Tunstall
It’s an interesting idea, and some other communities have succeeded with a similar scheme of which Ullapool is a notable example.
As you’ve probably seen most of the A96 through Nairn now has 20mph speed limit to match the new limit on all residential roads. There are exceptions however: we still have a 40mph limit at both entrances to the town and it’s still 30mph around and down Grantown Road. Residents locally, and both town community councils, are campaigning for further reductions.
Meanwhile further out in the ward the speed limits on the B9091 and B9006 at Croy are now variously 40mph and 50mph so watch out for those new limits if you’re going that way.
Today is Bonfire night and there’s no big display in Nairn. I’m told that there are rumours going around about a group who were trying to have one this year on The Links but was prevented from doing so by Highland Council. Just to knock this one on the head officers did all they could, with the support of your local councillors, to ensure this could happen but those trying to organise it simply started to prepare far too late in the day.
Given the many hoops you have to jump through for a display open to the public then the first year you do this you really need to start planning it now if you want to have a display in November 2024, so bear that in mind if you’re thinking about organising a public display in the future.
I’ve had two meetings with Nairn BID this week. They came to Wednesday’s Ward Business Meeting to discuss proposals to pedestrianise, to a greater or lesser extent, the Brae (the short section of road from the A96 Harbour Street junction up to the high street). They now have £40,000 of funding in place to undertake a study to see how this could be done. Since long before I was on the council I’ve thought that it would make sense to do this so I look forward to the outcome.
On Wednesday afternoon I attended a very productive partners’ workshop along with other organisations who directly or indirectly involved with the BID to discuss things the BID should be doing over its next five year term. Thanks to everyone involved.
That Ward Business Meeting also discussed council play equipment around the ward. This year has seen work done on swing chains in Cawdor, the climbing wall at Auldearn, and a seesaw at The Links. The wooden ship on The Links also needs some work if it’s to be retained but we’re looking to see if volunteers might take this on.
In terms of new equipment we discussed options and a proposal to replace play equipment in Birch Road, which is looking rather tired, got the most support for the next financial year. In a rare piece of good news we will have more money to spend the following year and even more in the year after that!
Lynn MacGillivray from the council, who presented this item, also asks if people are thinking of start fund raising for new play equipment could talk to her first.
I’ve left this one to last as I think I’ll be coming back to this repeatedly over the next couple of months. The joint administration group had its first meeting this week to discuss the council’s budget, i.e. the money it spends every year to keep everything running.
As I’ve mentioned here before we are still looking at a budget gap of £60-70 million for 2024/25 and we have to balance the books, which is going to be hard.
The council has a page on the Budget 2024 to 2025 which includes a video and lots of figures explaining on what and how the council spends its money.
Although council tax actually only provides about a fifth of the council’s income the situation has also been complicated by the First Minister’s announcement that the tax has been frozen for 2023-4. This is good news for residents of course but it complicates matters for the council as we still don’t know how much extra the Scottish Government will give us to compensate for this freeze.
Anyway the council would like to hear your views on how we spend the budget. You can contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or questions.