Pencaitland | Local Government

Between 1975 and 1996, local government was, on the whole, efficiently administered. Mention should perhaps be made of Frank Tindall, the planning chief. He it was who improved the environment for most of the residents. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. Most of the other officers and their staff were very helpful. On the whole their decisions, with care and common sense, were made to the benefit of the parish and its residents, but of course some of those decisions were objected to, and these objections had to be addressed. Nothing is ever perfect.

The parish was the centre of local government and the people in the parish looked to the local district councillor for help and guidance. Although some of the residents lobbied the councillor on various items, a compromise was sometimes sought and if not, the question was eventually settled by discussion. The personalities were everyday people with a penchant for local government and the will to represent the people. The local people accepted the two-tier system and local government did not become overly distant. Obviously at election times feelings could on occasion run high but the candidates, on the surface at least, behaved in a friendly manner when they stationed themselves outside the polling booth. At an election towards the end of the period, however, three candidates stood at a measured distance from each other, and seemed to pass few words between themselves. The electorate however on the whole, mirrored the stance usually taken by the candidates; once the election was over the electors accepted the result willingly or unwillingly. There was little malice displayed. On debateable questions a meeting was called either on site or in a hall. If public opinion was divided, a vote was taken, and the result was usually accepted. There are always a few ‘leaders’ in any community, who are usually ready to form opinions which they relay to the populace, but which are not always accepted.

Local government appears to work well at parish level, with easy access to the local councillor who is ready with help and advice. Several improvements have been made to the parish because of pressure being exerted on the higher authority by the councillor, but most residents are eagle-eyed and are ever ready to air their views on the way the parish is progressing.

Since 1975 a community council has been elected for the parish and some of its immediate surrounds.

The general purpose of a community council is to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible and to take such action in the interests of that community, as appears to it to be expedient and practicable.

Community councillors are elected by secret ballot. The system works very well and to the benefit of the community. One of the most successful achievements was the organisation of the Millennium celebrations. All the members of the council are very dedicated.

The parish has been represented on the local council for 55 years through the varying changes to local government. Throughout the 55 years the various councillors have performed their work, on the whole, very well. They have not been dictatorial and, except for differences of opinions between ‘the populace’ and the district council on occasion, the electors have a good relationship with their representative.

The largest issue of importance in the parish has without doubt been the large number of residential properties being built. The local councillor addressed the issue well, but all opposition to the houses being built in such numbers was squashed by a public inquiry, which ruled that the development should go ahead. Ironically, the original owner of the land arranged for a lorry-load of stone to be tipped and levelled where the entrance of the estates were to be, and although that action was ten years before building started, it was ruled that the scheme had commenced.

Active political groups in the parish were the Labour party, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, with occasional sallies by the Green Party.