Chair resigns over lights lack of interest

A TOTAL lack of interest, overwhelming apathy and failure of his council to represent their community led to Cree Valley Community Council chairman John McNaught handing in his resignation this week.

The shock departure came just two days after the switching on of Newton Stewart's Christmas lights at which members of Galloway Pageant Commitee and several members of the public were left to oversee the running of events because only one member of the community council showed up.

At a fraught meeting of the council on Monday the fed-up chairman said he was no longer prepared to be associated with councillors who did not represent their community.

He blasted at his colleagues: "After a great deal of agonising and uninterest from fellow council members, the lights were switched on but more than a few people will be commenting on the lack of interest and turn out from you."

He added: "If it hadn't been for the pageant committee, Rodney Burnett the electrician and several members of the public who helped out at the last minute, the evening would have been a total disgrace and the town would have no Christmas lights this year."

Councillor McNaught said that ahead of his absence at the November meeting, he had asked for a meeting to begin arrangements for the event - but none took place.

He also asked that someone talk to the electrician about having the lights fitted and connected in time for the events, but no one did.

Bill Campbell told the chairman he had in fact spoken toMr Burnett last month but Jthe chairman disputed this, claiming the electrician had only been informed he was required four days earlier, which meant he and his associate took a day off work in order to connect all the lights .around the town.

But Councillor Maggie Birch shouted at the chairman: "Why do we have to make such a fuss over the lights in the first place?

"If you think back 10 or 15 years, the lights went on without all this carry on. If the community don't want this, then they don't want it."

But Councillor McNaught retorted: "It wasn't the community who didn't turn out - it was the representatives of this community council."

Member Willie Lochrie suggested that the council was unsure what exactly had been expected of them.

Councillor McNaught declared: "Not one of you even turned up to hand out a cup of soup. None of you do anything for the community within this council and if it wasn't for me, there'd be no lights.

"This council should be representing the community and it is not. And I'm not prepared to be part of that."

After the meeting he told The Gazette: "I have put immense energy over the past few years into trying to upgrade the switch-on into a community event and to promote community pride and spirit.

Most members do not now appear to agree that this is the way of the future. It would seem that the town could well fall back into the dark old days when Newton Stewart 'celebrates' the start of the Christmas festivities with a simple switch on of the lights without any sort of entertainment or celebration.

"To me, and many members of the public, and in particular the younger ones, this is not progressive or community spirited.

"Without the support of the members in what is always an important event in most communities, then I had no alternative than to resign my post to allow someone else to take the lead more in favour with what the present members would seem to want."

He's decided to remain a member of the council. A new chairperson will be appointed in January.