What is the matter with Councillor Hood? He spearheads a tendency in Lochgelly which is unremittingly hostile to any critical comment, let alone engagement, with what Fife Council or the community council is doing in the town or surrounding areas. He denounces anyone who dares to question or criticise as politically motivated. This, he believes, gives him free rein to launch ad hominem attacks on these individuals, especially if they have dared to use their own names.
Well, I have news for Cllr Hood. There are plenty of people in Lochgelly and beyond who are extremely unhappy about his conduct as councillor and that of the community council. Both bodies are supposed to serve the local community, and take their cue from that community irrespective of party allegiance.
Many people may not be as vocal as me because they see the attacks, bullying and intimidation they will attract if they speak at community council meetings or write to the paper. And why bother in any case when well-reasoned and well-intentioned interventions are ignored, misappropriated or maligned?
This is why no one goes to community council meetings. As for working with Cllr Hood or Stevie Murray on their various projects, the absence of community groups and even individuals – not counting of course well-known Labour stooges – is glaring. Does Cllr Hood notice? Does he care?
Cllr Hood’s attitude to the community boils down to three maxims. My way or no way, be grateful for what you’re given and shut up or you’ll lose what’s on offer. This is all very well if you’re spending your own earnings (although it’s not a great approach for respectful let alone harmonious relationships) but it’s not on when what you’re spending, or to use Cllr Hood’s favourite word, “investing” taxpayers’ money – the hard-earned cash you and I pay into the public purse for the public good.
Everyone is entitled to question whether public money is being spent in the best way possible, in terms of value for money, fairness and addressing need. We elect our public representatives, or in the case of some community councils allow them to be unelected, to oversee those spending choices, and if they are falling down on the job, they can and should be called out.
Now Cllr Hood’s record is poor in the extreme. Yes, there are projects with million pound plus price tags in the offing, but it is unclear how far the community wants them or will even benefit from them – certainly facilities like Rockgelly and the cycle track will be closed to those who cannot afford the entrance fees, just as the Lochgelly Centre is essentially a privatised space, not an open-to-all community space like the previous community centre.
There is no doubt that austerity has hit deprived areas like Lochgelly much harder than more affluent ones, but what has Cllr Hood done to alleviate the impact of the cuts? Loudly blaming the Tories in Westminster is no different to the SNP constantly blaming Scotland’s woes on the Union if it is no more than a handy excuse for ignoring the day job. If he didn’t think he could do anything about the multiple deprivation in Lochgelly, he should have honestly admitted his limitations as a local councillor and moved on long ago.
Here are some of the issues which an outside observer might consider to have been part of a councillor’s job in Lochgelly in the last 10 years: community facilities the whole community from children to old people can use irrespective of cost, a youth centre to keep teenagers off the streets and give them something worthwhile to do, a local foodbank (people who have to use a foodbank don’t have spare cash for transport), public toilets, trees, modern play facilities and decent green spaces including bringing the Gelly Loch back into use, extra funding for GP provision targetted on deprivation, disabled access at the railway station, better shopping facilities including a petrol station and competitive supermarket, the negative impacts of Mossmorran and the wind turbines on people’s health and quality of life.
All of these issues and more have been raised repeatedly and many are contained in Lochgelly’s recent community action plan. For reasons of their own, Cllr Hood and the community council effectively boycotted the process by which the community action plan was drawn up. A long-time, multiply deprived community like Lochgelly should be applauded for wanting more than what Cllr Hood has served up over the years, not slapped down.