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COLONSAY COMMUNITY COUNCIL

Convener's report for A.G.M held on 14 June 2022 in the Colonsay Community Hall and via Zoom

I am submitting this report as Convener of the CCC. I have been in this position since October 2021.

The last AGM was held in October 2021. There have been 4 council meetings during the period October 2021 to June 2022. Minutes of these meetings are published on the CCC website.

The Hon. Treasurer will be reporting to you on the financial side of CCC.

The Hon. Secretary will also be reporting to this AGM separately.

During the last 8 months, and with a much-reduced number of Councillors, the CCC agreed to concentrate on dealing with essential CCC business only until the next full election. Despite there being a by-election in September 2021, only one member of the public put themselves forward for election and was duly elected to the role of community councillor. There are currently 4 community councillors in post with space for 4 more in the current Constitution.

During this period, there have been two significant changes made to the way the CCC operates:

•  Firstly, since the relaxation of the ‘lockdown' rules following the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been able to reinstate physically attended public meetings rather having to resort to using the ‘virtual' Zoom platform that so many of us have become familiar with in the last 2 years.

•  Secondly, and as a result of the experiences of the pandemic restrictions, it has been recognised nationally that the importance of holding virtually attended meetings has great value. In order for us to legally continue to be able to offer this method of attending a public meetings, we have had to change the CCC's Constitution to allow Hybrid meetings to take place. The last 2 meetings have been held in the Church where members of the public can attend in person and there are facilities to enable people to attend virtually using the Zoom platform. The Colonsay Community Hall now has similar apparatus, and this meeting is being held in the hall as a result.

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Day to day business

“Normal” business has continued throughout the course of this period. The Council continues to monitor issues that arise and lobby the relevant authorities as required. Examples of this are:

•  Ferries – a recent suggestion that our ferries should operate only from Kennacraig was consulted on and soundly rejected by this Community. Councillors attended a meeting to reject the proposal.

•  Air transport – we have recently been asked, at very short notice, to submit a paper as to why the air service is important for this community. There was not time to consult with the broader community but again, we robustly laid out a case for the continuation and extension of the air service to the mainland.

•  Waste disposal – it continues to be a battle to get regular rubbish collections from the island by ABC. We are currently on a 3-week cycle which is considered by this council to be sub-optimal

•  Telecommunications & Broadband services – there has been regular representation made as we run up to the government deadline in 2025 for all communities to have super-fast broadband. Various surveys for infrastructure works are in progress. It is hoped that a fibre-optic network will be in place on the island by 2023.

•  Roads – contracts have been awarded and along with our local Councillor, Robin Currie, we are pleased to see that there is now a plan for significant work to be carried out on the Colonsay roads. This work is scheduled to commence next month. However, this is not going to cover all the work needed to get the roads to an acceptable standard so there is still lobbying to be done to improve the situation.

•  Royal Mail services to and from the island – Despite having difficulties in setting up a dialogue with Royal Mail, communication has now been established and the importance of a properly connected service has been made clear.

•  Vehicle parking- it has been recognised that public parking, particularly at the harbour, has become a serious problem for Colonsay. With organisations becoming increasingly concerned about liability issues and Health & Safety regulations, the ability to park has been severely diminished. This is an area which has to be addressed for the future.

•  Camping on the island – Following an in-depth consultation of the community by a sub-group of the CCC, a project to fund a crofter to provide a public camping site has been introduced by the CCDC.

•  Definition of community - The definition of who should be eligible to call themselves a member of this community continues to be a topic for debate. After extensive consultation with the Argyll and Bute Governance Officer, the Councillors are clear that they must recognise and include anyone with an invested interest in Colonsay and Oransay.

Colonsay & Oransay Community Fund (COCF)

The community fund is principally supported by annual donations from MOWI (who run the local fish farm situated close to Colonsay) and has continued to operate and manage applications from eligible parties for funds. The CCC oversees the activities of the fund. A number of grants have been made during the period.

Review of COCF procedures

Following an enquiry from the a member of the community on the status and operation of the COCF in October 2021, it was determined that, five years on from its inception, it was a good time to review both the protocols for and operation of the COCF. 

Jan Binnie was co-opted to lead this process and spent some weeks consulting with community members, the results of which consultation were presented to the community at our December meeting. It was agreed that Jan would continue to lead a sub-committee of community members to take forward development on the operation of the Fund.

In April, the subcommittee reported back with a series of proposals relating to the Fund's operation, administration and communication, which were duly adopted at our April meeting. These included the funding of a part-time administrative post and a website to ensure the fund is promoted and communicated effectively, as well as new protocols for the recruitment of community panels to review applications, a simplified application process for smaller applications and the establishment of a ‘hardship fund'. All these measures are in process of development at the moment.

Conclusion

Having served as a community councillor for many years, I am pleased to report that the scrutiny and management of procedures and processes is now significantly improved. The CCC has its own dedicated website and publishes minutes of meetings promptly as well as making its Terms of Reference available to anyone with access to the internet. Our public meetings have been well attended and I feel that the debates are well managed and, as a result, more constructive than ever. The current CCC has worked hard to be objective and fair and to represent the views expressed to us by members of the community and will continue to do so until the end of its current term.

It was disappointing that the byelection for community councillors held in September 2021 only produced 1 applicant for the 4 available places for community councillors. It was a shame to see that those who would be able to give greater breadth to the CCC were not prepared to put themselves forward. We look forward to the full election in October when we hope to see more candidates come forward.

On a personal note, I wish to thank my fellow councillors for their hard work during the term of this council. Although I never sought or wished for the position of Convener of the CCC, it has been a great privilege to serve this community and I look forward to the next council continuing with the task of being objective, representative, fair and reasonable for all members of this community. My greatest wish is for this community to be more tolerant and inclusive of one another. We do not all have the same views, as in any community, but we should be able to conduct ourselves civilly and to be tolerant of different views and opinions.

I look forward to seeing you all around the island.

Alex Howard

Convenor

June 2022

Colonsay Community Council (CCC) response to request for feedback on current Air Service to Colonsay

29 May 2022

Background

On Friday 27 May 2022, the CCC was contacted by a representative of Airtask who operate Hebridean Airways (Hebair) which provides the air service to Colonsay from Oban. CCC have been asked to provide feedback on how they would like to see this service operating going forward. The deadline for responses to Airtask is Monday 31 May 2022.

History

After many years of campaigning, an air service was established in 2008. This involved Argyll & Bute Council (ABC) investing in the infrastructure of the airfields on Colonsay and Coll along with Oban airport and a private company, Highland Airways, providing the air service to Colonsay and Coll. There were 2 Islander aircraft available and there were two flights a day, twice a week. The route was subsidised and overseen by ABC who in turn received Scottish Government (SG) funding to support the service. The service was expanded, during the winter ferry timetable period (October to March), with a single flight to Colonsay (and Coll) on Saturday and Sunday to enable high school students who weekly board in Oban to return to their family home for 1 night a week. In 2019, ABC decided to reduce the subsidy available to the air service operator and, as a result, the service was reduced to one flight a week during the week. The weekend ‘Scholars flights' have been maintained during the winter. Hebair now provide a single aircraft to operate this schedule.

Current service

Hebair provide an airlink to Colonsay from Connel airport near Oban. This service currently operates on Thursday and flies a route from Connel to Colonsay and then returns to Connel via Islay. This route is flown once in the morning and once in the afternoon subject to weather and the single Islander aircraft being serviceable. The aircraft can carry a maximum of 9 passengers with minimal luggage. It takes approximately 20 minutes to fly from Oban to Colonsay.

Lifeline service

It is recognised by the SG that, for remote communities like Colonsay & Oransay to survive, it is vital that a sustainable, reliable, and affordable public transport link is supported by government. Transport Scotland have responsibility for oversight of such ‘lifeline services'. In Colonsay's case, the lifeline service is provided by a once-a-day ferry service operated by Caledonian Macbrayne. The ferry journey time is a minimum of 2 ¾ hours including waiting times. In the winter months this service is reduced to 4 sailings a week.

The air service is not overseen by Transport Scotland and is therefore not considered to be part of the Lifeline service to the island.

Future requirements for the Colonsay air service

Whilst it has not been possible to consult with the island community due to the time constraints, for the purposes of this request for information, the Councillors are confident that the views stated here are representative of the majority of the community. The CCC has debated the air service on a regular basis.

We suggest that the following should be a minimum requirement for the continued air service for this island community.

•  Frequency of service

•  The weekly service should be reinstated to operate on at least 2 days a week. The air service is predominantly used by islanders who need to attend the mainland for essential services such as medical or dental appointments as well as visits to other professional services like banks, lawyers and accountants. It means that for the 1 st time in this island's history that island residents can travel to the mainland and back in one day and actually manage to have approximately ½ a day in Oban. The service has proved itself to be much more reliable than the ferry service and less susceptible to adverse weather conditions. Having said that, since the service has been reduced to 1 day a week, Hebair have reduced the number of aircraft available to operate the service from 2 to 1. If there is a serviceability issue with that aircraft the service is vulnerable to major disruption. This happened this winter and there was no air service for a several weeks.

•  The other major users of the service are the Health and Educations services who have requirements to send representatives from the mainland. This can be managed much more effectively and efficiently on day trips. The utility providers also make use of the air service regularly.

•  Cost of service

•  The current level of fares has been seen as acceptable. Because islanders visiting the mainland and professionals visiting the island do not have to spend a night away from home to do their business (this is usually 2 nights in the winter) the cost savings are considerable not to mention the time savings too.

Additionally, we suggest that the following areas should be addressed and would considerably enhance the service across the network:

•  Oversight of Air Service

•  The air service should be included as part of the ‘lifeline service' to the island. As such, it should be overseen by Transport Scotland and ABC should not be required to manage the service. This would mean that the level of subsidy would be considered alongside the ferry service rather than separately as it currently is. ABC could continue to provide the airport facilities as they do currently.

•  Enhancements to current service

•  If there were other air services from Oban to elsewhere in Scotland, this would make the possibility of travelling further afield much easier. In order to be able to attract families to move to Colonsay permanently, the CCC see this an important consideration.

•  Building on the previous point, increasing the number of flights to all the island routes would make the air service more sustainable, provide greater efficiency of the existing airport services and potentially bring more businesses and people to Argyll to live and work.

We look forward to working with other agencies to preserve what has become a vital part of our physical link to the rest of Scotland.

Colonsay Community Council

May 2022

 

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