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Conservatives seeking to break up Highland Council as part of ‘radical reform’ of authority

The Conservatives are proposing breaking up Highland Council if they gain control of the local authority on May 6
The Conservatives are proposing breaking up Highland Council if they gain control of the local authority on May 6

The Highland Conservatives are seeing to break up the Highland Council, should they be voted into power later this week.

The group, which serves as an opposition party, is fielding 21 candidates as voters take to the polls on Thursday.

Conservatives claim the council is “failing to meet fairly the needs of all of the Highlands”.

They are demanding “radical reform”.

Changes required

Within their manifesto, the Tories say there must be change in “outlook, attitude and leadership” within Highland Council.

The group says it does not criticise without action and that its track record over the past five years has included bringing additional money to fix roads, recouping millions of pounds from property developers, and passing a motion to protect jobs at Dounreay.

In addition, Highland Conservatives say they were crucial in the charge to drop the boundary review for councils, which would have cut rural representation.

Andrew Jarvie is the group leader of the Highland Conservatives. Photo by Sandy McCook

Tories seek to break up Highland Council

With an area spanning the size of Belgium, the Tories believe one council serving diverse communities with diverse needs does not work.

They are calling for Highland Council to be broken up into “smaller, locally accountable councils”.

The Tories feel the current set-up does not fully represent, with bids for the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund neglecting Lochaber.

In December, a motion aiming to break up the council into smaller units was defeated by just four votes.

The Tories say: “In this election, every extra Scottish Conservative and Unionist councillor elected closes the gap and means we can make the argument again”.

The Tories believe Highland Council should be split into smaller, more manageable areas.

£195 million repair bill for Highland roads

Some of the worst roads are found across Highland.

According to the Tories, a recent national survey ranked Highland as 26th in Scotland – with a mammoth repair bill estimated to cost £195 million.

The group claims that over the past two years in post, councillors have successfully generated £39.5 million of additional spending in the roads budget.

They claim the current leadership is “too blinkered to accept fresh thinking”.

Repairing roads across Highland could cost up to £195 million, according to the Tories.

Tories seek to ‘cut waste’

The Conservatives say they believe taxpayers’ money is not being spent on what is wanted or needed.

They say the number of senior managers within the council has nearly doubled in the past three years, with funding always available for the “latest vanity project”.

Good roads, excellent schools, regular bin collections and low council tax should always come before the latest vanity project, according to the party.

‘This council has failed an entire generation of children’

The Highland Conservative group claim the current council has “failed an entire generation of children”.

They say despite the best efforts of teachers, schools are not resourced to give pupils the best possible chance in life.

They describe the Highland Council possessing the lowest literacy and numeracy rates in Scotland as a “disgrace” with subject choice restricted and class sizes growing.

If elected, Conservative councillors vow to address these trends.

The party has pledged to address low literacy and numeracy rates.

Call for common-sense planning and development

Concern has been raised from voters over the contributions of major developers to the local infrastructure.

To satisfy this want, the Highland Conservatives say there must be a joined up thinking to all development.

They say the focus must shift towards building communities complete with shops, schools and GP capacity, rather than overloading existing areas.

The Tories also promise to push for quality, energy-efficient housing that is affordable to buy or rent.

The Tories want developers to contribute to enhancing local infrastructure.

142 battle it out for seats in council chamber

A total of 142 candidates have put their names forward for election on May 5.

Seventy-one seats are up for grabs across 20 multi-member wards.

The full breakdown of allegiances to parties is as follows:

Independent – 40
Other – 12
Scottish Conservative and Unionist – 21
Scottish Green Party – 11
The Scottish Labour Party – 14
Scottish Liberal Democrats – 21
Scottish National Party (SNP) – 23

Voters will take to the polls on May 5

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