This meeting had been heralded by both a two-page letter from the remaining four Directors and a subsequent newsletter, with a view to encouraging members of the community to adopt a more proactive attitude to this vital community organisation. The meeting was held at the Service Point in challenging weather, with driving rain and winds already gusting to over 40 knots and which were later to exceed 75 knots. Despite these conditions the four directors and the remaining job-sharing half of the Local Development Officer were joined by 12 members of the public. That majority of the Directors who had resigned in recent months did not attend.
It was startling to learn that our company has only 21 shareholders, and that therefore perhaps the majority of the shareholders were actually in attendance. Colonsay and Oronsay has a population of approximately 130 persons and one can understand that many people would have been unable to attend in such weather conditions, but membership of the company is open to all persons on the Electoral Roll, at a cost of £1 per year, and such a low level of commitment is surely quite remarkable. The company arranges the supply and sale of petrol, diesel, coal and gas, is involved in the provision and servicing of the service Point, appoints and manages the increasingly-vital post of Local Development Officer, purchased community land and created five new crofts, is negotiating to provide opportunities for low-cost housing, was responsible for the construction of the existing industrial units and publicly-owned housing, is working to develop a wind-turbine project with its associated income stream and is engaged in numerous other projects… for example the Community Website, which is vital to so many businesses, and it is the ultimate owner of this publication, The Corncrake. An apathy score of 85% of any island’s population must be some sort of record.
The meeting turned to the matter of strengthening the Board, which is currently operating with a bare quorum and under intolerable strain in view of all its commitments. The resultant discussion was detailed, informative and constructive – a number of hard truths had to be addressed and, in the view of your correspondent, these were aired and considered in a very open way. It was agreed that a General Meeting will be held – probably in February – when members of the existing Board will have an opportunity to retire and when it is to be hoped that a new Board can be elected by democratic process, to join any member or members of the existing Board who are prepared to provide continuity. It was also to be hoped that the experience of recent months would be turned to full advantage. This being so, former Directors whose principles had led to their resignation in recent months might allow their names to be put forward for re-election. It was pointed out that a small community does not have an unlimited pool of available talent and it is to everyone’s advantage that we have a strong and united Board.
The issue of the purchase of land for affordable housing was addressed and clarified. The potential vendor has made proposals and awaits a response, and the current Board is reviewing its options; the negotiations are ongoing and both parties are hopeful of a mutually-satisfactory conclusion. Some individuals currently concerned with the workings of the company indicated that they felt they needed more support and guidance; one member of the community is a member of the Institute of Directors and another is a qualified Management Trainer – both of these individuals were present and offered to assist in any way. In addition, funds have been obtained which will provide the help of an outside specialist, working two days per month for 9 months at a fee of £15,000. This should make the responsibilities of the new Directors less daunting. One or two people sought and received reassurance as to the financial standing of the company, which in that department is demonstrably in good heart.
This is not a full account of the meeting, which went on to address normal company business; it is understood that the Board will in future issue a monthly newsletter locally (to be circulated by email) and it will also recommence the process of posting the Minutes online. All meetings are open to the public, Minutes of all meetings and all company correspondence are available for consultation at the Service Point (except where matters of specific commercial or individual confidentiality might be involved). It is understood that requests have been lodged by an anonymous third-party under the Freedom of Information legislation and are being processed, although one might wonder why the enquirer does not just come into the office and look at the files for him- or herself. It is an obvious example of one way to waste time which could be more productively employed.