Local councillor Linda Erksine has come under fire for her misleading use of minutes from Lochgelly Community Council to claim support for controversial plans at Lochore Meadows.
At the last meeting of Fife Council’s Executive Committee during the discussion on whether or not the proposed visitor centre at Lochore Meadows should go ahead, Lochgelly councillor Linda Erskine said Lochgelly Community Council supported the current proposal and cited a statement in the December 2016 minutes as evidence for her statement.
In fact Lochgelly Community Council had decided not to support the current proposal, as we reported previously, and George Kinnell expressed that refusal to support in his role as the Lochgelly Community Council representative on the Lochore Meadows Panel at its December meeting.
The minutes quoted by Cllr Erskine are imprecise:
With some imagination, “Campaign for facilities which are suitable for the location” could be taken to refer to the Fife Council proposal by those who believed it provided facilities suitable for the location, although it would be strange to consider the proposal constituted a “campaign”.
What clearly was a campaign was the protest against the Fife Council proposal by many people who deemed the facilities it offered to be unsuitable and wanted something fit for purpose. Cllr Erskine chose to ignore this more plausible interpretation of the minutes, even though it was in line with the actual position of community council as reported by LOSW and publicly represented by George Kinnell.
Prior to the Executive Committee meeting, in a public conversation on the facebook page for the protest which Lochore Meadows Panel was organising at Fife House, community councillor Carol Mackie was asked to clarify what she understood the minutes to mean.
When pressed if this was support for the visitor centre proposed by Fife Council or for better facilities as called for by residents and Benarty Community Council, Ms Mackie added:
“Better facilities which Benarty folk the Benarty CC and others want.”
No officer or councillor challenged Cllr Erskine’s erroneous reading of the Lochgelly Community Council minutes, and members of the public present at the Executive Committee meeting were not allowed to intervene.
The proposals for the new Lochore Meadows visitor centre were voted through by the current Labour administration which had argued that the proposal enjoyed considerable support within local communities.
Former chairperson for Lochgelly Community Council and Shining Waters volunteer, James Glen comments:
“Despite clarity being provided by Ms Mackie, Cllr Erskine misled the Executive Committee by quoting the minutes in support of the plans whilst failing to declare that her former election agent Stevie Murray wrote the minutes she quoted.
With the the Labour administration determined to push through the Lochore Meadows proposal, this is not the first time Lochgelly Community Council has been used as a political tool by local Labour councillors.”
When a series of emails between Cllr Hood and the LCC Chair (Brian Schulz) and Secretary (Stevie Murray) were released through Freedom of Information, it revealed inappropriate political involvement by Cllr Mark Hood and MSP Alex Rowley in the setting up of a so-called community council campaign for the Lochgelly Health Centre.
At the January meeting of Lochgelly Community Council, three community councillors known for their close ties to the Labour Party rounded on community councillor and Shining Waters volunteer George Kinnell, in an attempt to produce a decision to support the highly-politicised plans for Lochore Meadows.
The three community councillors are subject to a complaint for failing to disclose alleged financial and non-financial conflicts of interest.
Mr Glen concludes:
“With Labour councillors colluding with Labour activists on the Lochgelly Community Council, residents are left with little representation as the democratic process is exploited for party political gain.
Community council meetings as well as Fife Council meetings should be filmed and distributed in online archives so that there is an exact public record of the activities conducted by representatives in our name.
It would make it a lot harder for our representatives to play fast and loose with the truth or to hide behind vague minutes.
By bringing greater transparency into the meetings and reducing the scope for party-political manipulation, filming and broadcasting council meetings at all levels would increase public engagement and improve decision-making in the best interests of our communities.”