Want to Visit your Councillor's Surgery? Best Get on Facebook as Council Slaps Ban on Advertising Consultations

>> 24 February 2013

A proposal to ban the advertising of councillors’ surgeries will come before an Aberdeenshire Council committee on Thursday. The move has already been condemned by Inverurie & District councillor Bryan Stuart, stating that the move will make it more difficult for the public to access their councillors.

Under plans put forward by Head of Customer Communication & Improvement Kate Bond in a move to save just £4000 per year, councillors are instead to “be supported to set up their own Facebook page to promote engagement with their constituents”. Surgery details will continue to be listed on the council website, as they are at the moment.

Commenting, Cllr Bryan Stuart (SNP-Inverurie & District) said:

“I simply see it as part of my job to be available to my constituents, regardless of who they voted for or indeed whether they voted at all, although I appreciate some councillors don’t hold surgeries. Councillors are there to serve their local communities and I said when I stood for election that I would strive to do my best and that’s what I hope to continue to do.

“It’s difficult to do your best to be accessible though if the council won’t advertise to let the public know that their elected representatives are holding surgeries. Not everyone is on Facebook or the internet and newspapers are still the first place many people turn to for local information.

“The costs involved are minimal and the ban on letting people know through their local paper when their councillors are available just serves to place a further obstacle between the voters and those elected to serve them at a time when we should be encouraging more contact, not resorting to secrecy by hiding information from those without access to computers.”

Official figures obtained from Aberdeenshire Council show that SNP councillors in West Garioch and Inverurie wards are the most accessible.

Figures show that in West Garioch, SNP councillor Allison Grant held 29 advice surgeries during the period from the 2007 election to the end of 2011. Liberal Democrat councillors Sheena Lonchay and Hazel Al-Kowarri held 5 each during the same period. Since the 2012 election, Councillor Lonchay has been appointed as Chair of the Garioch Area Committee.

In Inverurie, figures show that SNP councillor Bryan Stuart was the only councillor to hold any advice surgeries at all during the period from the 2007 election to the end of 2011. Cllr Stuart held 27 advice surgeries while Liberal Democrats Martin Kitts-Hayes and Michael Raeburn and Conservative Richard Cowling held no surgeries at all during the same period. Since the 2012 election, Councillor Kitts-Hayes has been appointed Deputy Leader of the Council.

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