THE decision to read out of two letters addressed to Port William Community Council led to a spectacular tit-for-tat row between the former chairwoman and an advisor to the council that eventually prompted one member of the public to walk out in despair at the verbal squabble.
The letters, one from the Port William Community Development Trust and one from the Community Association both expressed their support for former chair Anna Thompson who was voted off as chairwoman at the previous meeting after community council advisor David Hirst accused her of breaching the constitution of the community council.
The letter from the Community Association referred to the “appalling behaviour towards Mrs Thompson” at the May meeting and the attitude of “narrow minded people” who were “nit picking” over a decision to level the Harbour Green in the village at the end of April.
Mrs Thompson’s position is that permission for the work was granted in 2007 but Mr Hirst insisted that the Community Council did not want the work, required by the Port William Community Association, to go ahead at that time and that the work was subsequently carried out against the wishes of the community council.
Referring to his stance at the previous meeting, Mr Hirst said: “What happened was the correct way of dealing with things. The proper procedure was carried out.”
He added that the decision to level the green was sending the message “Sod you - we will do what we want” to the community council members.
Mrs Thompson replied that those involved took advantage of “an excellent opportunity to get the job done.” She added: “I was only doing what was good for the village - not for myself.”
Community Association chairman Shaun Dodds then spoke to express his regret at the upset the work had caused and his wish that, as the proud recipients of the Calor Gas Scottish Village of the Year in 2008, the various organisation in the Port William could now move forward from this and rebuild good relations.
CC member Brian Highman felt the problem stemmed from “too many people wearing too many hats” in the village organisations which led to them failing to declare an interest in matters arising, as laid out in the constitution.
Vice chairman Neil McNaught called for order and said he saw no purpose in continuing the debate and asked the parties concerned to “move on”.
But as the last salvos were being fired between the warring factions one woman stood up and announced that, having never attended at Port William Community Council meeting before, she was now leaving in horror at what she had just heard. She hoped to come back in the future but only if “things improve.”
Another guest on the night, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, commented that this was the “worst meeting she had ever been to” and there was “more structure in a teenagers meeting”.
“I am horrified” she said, “you are not achieving anything”.
The Community Council remains without a chairman after Anna Thompson announced she was not eligible to stand after serving for six consecutive years. As there were no nominations from the floor, Vice Chairman Neil McNaught chaired the meeting and the vacant position will be discussed at next month’s meeting. The treasurer and secretary both remain in their positions.