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Dingwall tells council boss about lack of trust

By Scott Maclennan

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THE new woman at the top of Highland Council has heard first hand concerns from people in Ross-shire about how the local authority is perceived outwith its Inverness headquarters.

Donna Manson, who was joined by her deputy, Derek Yule, and budget leader Alister Mackinnon at a Dingwall drop-in was told by one local businessman and community councillor that a breakdown in trust had resulted from years of poor communication and a dismissal of local opinion on a variety issues.

George Murray cited the planned introduction of parking charges to Dingwall, lengthy delays over resolving the future of a local footbridge on a popular walking route and public toilets provision as examples of everyday concerns.

He said: “There is a rift, a mistrust between the council and the people of Dingwall. It has been a gradual build-up over the years but I think the way the Highland Council has been dealing with issues has not helped and it has not helped any of you whatsoever.”

Mrs Manson promised a “listening council” when she took the reins from Steve Barron last month. That has included a lengthy series of drop-ins across the sprawling Highland Council area inviting people to share what they feel the local authority does well and where there’s room for improvement.

The council faces a massive budget gap against a backdrop of simmering public discontent over a

reduction in services as belts are tightened.

She said she was willing to look at all issues raised. She said: “I need to think about how we structure staff in the council so that people feel there is an equal service out there.”

The planned introduction of parking charges to a town which boasts freely available space prompted warnings. Councillor Margaret Paterson said: “I can tell you that the majority of people in Dingwall want you to stop imposing parking charges. And as a council you don’t care how the High Street will go down the plug hole because of it.”

Mrs Manson said she would consider the concerns raised during the drop-ins and would report back in January.

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