Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Row over chairmanship of electoral registration committee

Inverness councillor Ken Gowans
Picture by Sandy McCook.
Inverness councillor Ken Gowans Picture by Sandy McCook.

A political row has erupted over the chairmanship of an influential joint council committee.

The Highland and Western Isles Valuation Joint Board (VJB) is responsible for the administrative oversight of the Assessor and Electoral Registration Officer’s activities, in particular setting the annual budget.

It amalgamates councillors from both Highland Council and Western Islands Council.

Following the last local government elections in 2017 the committee voted for a new chairman, which was a 5-5 split between Highland members Jimmy Gray, for Labour, and the SNP’s Ken Gowans.

It was decided the pair would share the role, which pays around £4,300-a-year on top of councillor’s annual salary, with Mr Gray taking on the task for the first two years and Mr Gowans for the remainder.

However, the situation was made complicated when Mr Gowans left the SNP Group on Highland Council and was therefore unable to take up his role as a member of the VJB.

His position was taken by SNP Councillor Pauline Munro.

When Mr Gowans rejoined the SNP in 2019 Mrs Munro tendered her resignation from the committee to allow Mr Gowans to rejoin, which he subsequently did – with his intention to then take over the chairmanship.

However, a debate and vote on the chairmanship took place on the same day of her resignation – not allowing Mr Gowans the opportunity to take over the role as he had not yet rejoined.

The issue has been taken on by Western Isles SNP councillor Gordon Murray, who has written to the chief executive of the Comhairle nan Eilean.

He said: “I have concerns over the governance of the joint valuation board. A previously agreed decision seems to have been overturned and this has caused a real problem between members.

“This committee is an excellent example of partnership working and it would be a shame if this cannot be corrected and the original decision respected on joint chairmanship of the board.”

Councillor Gowans said: “I am deeply disappointed and saddened that this arrangement has not been honoured by the convenor. It is now a matter for the moral conscience for all those who supported this move.

“Those involved should take a long hard look at themselves and I am sure the public can draw their own conclusions.

“It is not unusual for councillors to enter agreements which involve large elements of trust, as anyone might imagine, this experience has demonstrated that there can no longer be any guarantee such arrangement can be relied upon to be honoured going forward.

“It is still not too late for the convenor to consider his position and it is my sincere hope, that after a period of further reflection, the terms and spirit of the 2017 agreement.”

Mr Gray responded: “There was a decision made at the start of this council’s life at the AGM of the VJB that Ken Gowans and I would split the post of convener over the life of the council.

“This decision was impacted by the fact that Ken Gowans left the SNP group on Highland Council and was not their representative on the VJB for the first half of the life of the Council. Ken Gowans was not a member of the VJB and did not attend any meetings over this period.

“At the end of this period the VJB made a decision that in light of the change of circumstances I was asked to remain as convener, this decision was supported by both of the Western isles representatives.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in