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Councillors delay picking town board chair

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Dumfries and West
Councillors delay picking town board chair

THE appointment of a key community figure to head up a new town board that will implement a massive £20m injection in Dumfries has been slightly delayed.

It was expected that all 43 Dumfries and Galloway councillors would vote for their preferred candidate at this week’s annual budget meeting from a shortlist of nine.

However, with only a list of names and titles in front of them, most councillors argued that they didn’t have enough information to make such an important decision.

Nith Councillor David Slater said: “I’m quite surprised that we just have a list of people. In business myself, we usually get CVs in, we speak to people, ask what they want to do in the future, and what they want to bring to the table. Then we will make a decision on who gets the job.

“This has not happened here. It’s like saying, ‘here’s a group of people, and then we’ll turn off the lights and pick one’.

“I don’t know some of these people. I can’t vote for people I don’t know.”

Nith Councillor Keith Walters said: “The process has been unfortunate, to say the least.

“There’s this fiasco of choosing a chair for a board that doesn’t (yet) exist. I don’t think many community groups would be acting in that way.”

Sixteen people were originally nominated for the chairperson role and, following discussions with each, nine individuals have agreed to be considered for this important role.

The candidates are: Robin Wishart, chairman of the Dumfries Partnership Action Group and Loreburn Community Council; Gwilym Gibbons, chief executive of The Crichton Trust; D J McDowell, local freelance community development consultant and cultural producer; Alexander Campbell, communications team lead at NHS Dumfries and Galloway; Mark Jardine, Dumfries People’s Project; Sitki Nalci, chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Multicultural Association; Eric Craig, vice chair of DPAG; Jennifer Challinor, head of research and development at The Crichton Trust; and Ritchie Nicoll, local business owner and employer.

At Tuesday’s meeting, councillors agreed to delegate the decision-making process to the next Nithsdale area committee where local councillors can find out more about each candidate and go through a thorough process.

Lochar Councillor Maureen Johnstone said: “As chair of the Nithsdale Area Committee, I would be quite happy to take this back to the committee for each candidate to submit a written report of their reasons for going forward for chair of the board.

“We could, at that meeting, make the decision as to who is going to be the chair of the board.”

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