COMMUNITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR ANSWERS
Pressure mounted on Cllr Lewis Ritchie tonight following release of a highly charged letter from Leith Central Community Council.
LCCC’s Chair Charlotte Encombe wrote to the troubled Leith Walk ward representative on 12 April (for full text, see HERE and foot of page).
She pointed out issues raised at the community council’s last meeting in March.
Encombe emphasised discontent that Ritchie had not attended an LCCC community council meeting since March 2017. LCCC had received no communication from him except two apologies for absence in June and November.
All this is particularly significant, wrote Encombe, due to Ritchie’s recent resignation from the SNP and new status as an Independent. LCCC members, she told him, ‘have no idea on what basis you are currently representing the ward’.
So far, LCCC has received only an automated response referring to Cllr Ritchie’s leave of absence ‘until 7 January’.
NO INTENTION TO ATTEND?
Encombe expressed particular irritation at Ritchie’s alleged comment, after his election in May 2017, that he would not attend another community council meeting for five years.
‘As I’m sure you will understand, it is very upsetting for LCCC members, a group of dedicated and hard-working volunteers, to hear this from someone who is legally their representative at the City of Edinburgh Council, in receipt of remuneration.
‘Furthermore, the question now arises, not having been to any of our meetings for over a year, how well you are acquainted with the issues that currently affect our ward.’
A frost-bitten olive branch, of sorts, followed in her concluding paragraph.
‘As our meetings are open to the public, you are welcome to attend them, but if you do, you will be asked to apologise for that remark [about future attendance] and must expect a lively debate regarding your current activities and plans to represent our ward.’
The draft minutes of last month’s LCCC meeting (ratified this evening), make clear that Cllr Ritchie’s alleged intention not to attend future meetings was raised by (former) SNP and Leith Walk colleague Cllr Amey McNeese-Mechan.
McNeese-Mechan’s public intervention and LCCC’s scrupulously polite letter are issue-specific. But they come amid other (unminuted) concerns arising from newspaper reports about Cllr Ritchie’s behaviour towards female colleagues (Issue 273, p.1) and local women's subsequent reactions. The political balance at City Chambers following Ritchie’s resignation from the SNP is another significant element now seasoning the soup.
In fairness, we should make clear that on the narrow point of regular attendance at community councils by elected members, several City councillors across Spurtleshire Wards 5, 11 and 12 will feel uncomfortable if this aspect of local democratic accountability continues to come under the spotlight.
We contacted Cllr Ritchie by email this evening asking for a comment, and will report any we receive.
UPDATE (18.4.18): This lunchtime, Cllr Ritchie responded on Facebook to Spurtle's article about the letter sent to him by Leith Central Community Council. His message appears as part of the jpg comments thread, but since not all users of this website are able to read jpgs, we also reproduce his words here:
Lewis Ritchie I am where I have always been, living in Leith and representing the constituents of Leith Walk who I am proud to serve. Since my election almost three years ago I have always been a regular attender of community council meetings. However, since October I was placed on leave of absence by the SNP. Since becoming an independent in February I now have no limits placed on me in terms of what I can and cannot attend. That being so, I have missed only the March and April meetings this year - meerings I chose not to attend as I thought it best, given the accusations made against me, to allow some time to pass before attending public meetings with former colleagues who have taken their own views about those allegations, allegations which I deny. I have contacted the chair to offer a meeting to discuss her concerns and have given a firm assurance that I will be present at future meetings, despite the fact that councillors are under no obligation to attend such meetings.