Councillors fell out on Tuesday over a proposed pilot study which could help curb anti-social behaviour, with one member describing the move as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
The council voted narrowly, by 10 votes to seven, in favour of submitting a bid to the Scottish Government by in the hope it might match fund £10,000 from the anti-social behaviour budget to run the scheme at the Staney Hill in Lerwick.
Known as “participatory budgeting”, the project directly involves local groups and individuals, allowing them to take direct responsibility in the development and renewal of their own neighbourhoods. If Shetland’s bid is successful, residents will be able to allocate budgets for new services in a democratic fashion.
Convener Sandy Cluness said the council and police should be able to combat any problems without running a pilot study. “I’m not going to oppose this, but I have a feeling these pilot schemes are more for much larger areas than Lerwick,” Mr Cluness said. “If there is anti-social behaviour we hopefully have ways of dealing with that.”
Councillor Betty Fullerton supported Mr Cluness’ view, although she insisted she was in favour of helping communities to help themselves. “I would support the ethos and idea of involving people in making decisions, but this is like using a hammer to crack a nut,” she said.
She was seconded by Laura Baisley, who said she had learned from her North Isles ward that all the people interested in being involved in local delivery groups already were. Mrs Baisley said the scheme was “OTT and unnecessary, and I can’t see it being rolled out in other areas”.
However, Lerwick North member Caroline Miller said she supported the study, not least because she had witnessed the positive impact similar projects had had on communities. “I’ve seen youngsters being allocated funds, and how it brings out responsibility and understanding between them,” Mrs Miller said. “This is a good way of bringing a community together, to understand the problems and find a solution.”
Vice-chairman, Allan Wishart said he had “never heard such a gloomy prognosis” around the table, adding there was “a lot to commend” the study.
Staney Hill was chosen as a possible location after some residents aired concerns about unruly behaviour in the area. Consultation was also carried out with the SIC housing service, while contact was made with community learning and development.