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Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

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Given the clear intention of Scottish Ministers to lay legislation before the Scottish Parliament introducing single transferable voting as the system of election for local government in 2007, The Highland Council is to explore with Scottish Ministers whether the sparsely populated nature of the more rural parts of the Highlands could be recognised by maintaining single member wards in exceptional cases within a system of Single Transferable Voting. 

If this in not possible, the Council is suggesting that the draft legislation contained in the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill be amended to deal with the following points to better suit Single Transferable Voting:

       That provision for two member wards be exceptionally allowed in the less populated rural parts of the Highlands;

       That the creation of multi-member wards of 5 members be allowed where natural communities are not best served by  multi-member wards of 3 or 4 members;

        That the Local Government Boundary Commission give priority to maintaining natural communities in the redrawing of ward boundaries with consequently greater flexibility to depart from a standard parity of electors where circumstances demand it;

        That election arrangements should allow for candidatesí statements to be distributed to all households and that other measures which will secure equality of treatment for all candidates are considered.

    The Council wants community consultation over the planned changes and supports the bringing into line of election practices and procedures between the Scottish Parliamentary and local government elections and the modernisation of election procedures and administration including postal ballots, electronic counting and electronic voting.

    The Council also supports the other provisions in the draft Bill with the following caveats:

        That the Council supports the reduction of the period  when a former member is restricted from taking up employment with the council from twelve months to 3 months, but would also wish that reduction to apply to all members whether they have been involved in the recruitment of politically restricted posts or not;

        That the Council supports the introduction of a salary system for all councillors, but wishes to stress that it is difficult for many members to carry out council duties on anything less that a full time basis because of travelling distances within their wards and to the Councilís administrative bases and that levels of remuneration should reflect this;

        That the Council supports the establishment of pension provision for councillors and stresses that this needs to be flexible enough to cater for the wide variety of personal circumstances of councillors; and

         That the Council supports the establishment of independent arrangements to decide on the remuneration package for councillors with the proviso that this should be able to reflect the different arrangements which reflect the Councilís decentralised organisation and political structure.