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Hundreds Oppose Plans
More than 200 people packed a busy public meeting on controversial proposals to move part of Cairnhill into a Coatbridge council ward.
Residents from the affected areas, and other neighbours from the Airdrie South ward, filled a function suite at New Broomfield to discuss the Local Government Boundary Commission plans with their elected representatives.
The meeting was jointly arranged by ward councillors Michael and Agnes Coyle of the SNP and David Fagan and Tom Curley of Labour, alongside Alex Neil MSP and Neil Gray MP.
Now the hundreds of voters will be submitting letters of objection as part of the official consultation process – on grounds including local identity, spending impact and overall number of councillors.
Councillors Fagan and Michael Coyle agreed that the event was “standing room only” as residents aired their views on the plans, drawn up as part of a Scotland-wide review.
It would see the area of Cromarty Road, Sutherland Drive, Ross Drive and their adjacent streets move to a new Coatbridge South ward; with the overall North Lanarkshire map being revised to increase the number of councillors on the authority from 70 to 77.
Councillor Fagan said: “It was one of the best public meetings I’ve been at; it was incredibly busy and without exception, everyone was very strongly against the proposals.
“I think they were pleased to hear that all the politicians, cross-party, felt the same – we all spoke about why this is a bad idea.
“Not only is that community part of Cairnhill and clearly identifying as part of Airdrie, with practical and administrative links in the town, but there’s the issue of representation at Airdrie local area partnership.
“All the councillors for the town meet with police, the health service and community representatives, and discuss local issues, matters affecting constituents and there are spending decisions through the local development budget.
“If this went ahead, the people in the affected area will be represented by Coatbridge councillors and lose the opportunity to be represented on issues that affect the town they’re associated with; that’s a strong example of why this is wrong.
“All this is because someone’s decided that North Lanarkshire needs seven more councillors – at a time when public funds are squeezed, £1 million on another seven councillors isn’t needed and people in the room agreed on that.”
Michael Coyle agreed: “All the politicians are totally behind each other; everybody’s singing from the same hymn sheet, and the council is looking for a meeting with the Commission.
“The meeting was absolutely mobbed and it shows how sensitive this is and that people want to know how to challenge the proposals.
“We gave them the advice and information required to put in their objections and how to contact the Commission, and stressed that time is of the essence as there are only six weeks left. Everyone agreed that objections should be made and that this affects all of Airdrie and needs a strong campaign.”
Councillor Curley was unable to attend the meeting but sent his apologies.
Mr Neil and Mr Gray are supporting their constituents and the local councillors – and plan to meet Commission officials to discuss the information and timescale surrounding consulation on the plans.
Airdrie & Shotts MSP Mr Neil said: “People haven’t been properly notified of this proposal – there’s been nothing through doors, and for an important proposal which is going to affect all the electors in that area, it should have been comprehensive.
“There’s unity between the SNP and Labour on this; everybody to a person is totally opposed to these proposals as there’s a real issue surrounding the community and the LAP representation, and there’s no need for any extra councillors.”
Mr Gray added: “The turnout really shows the strength of feeling – people in Cairnhill identify as Airdrieonians, and there’s a particularly important issue of democracy and local spending decisions by changing the boundaries.
“We’re in the process of arranging a meeting with the Commission chair to pass on these issues as there’s a question to be asked about how it’s been highlighted, and everyone on the panel will be helping the community to put forward a substantial response so views are heard.”