Community Councils - Why are they not working for communities?

I have lived here for 12 years and during all of that time I have seen my community council reduced and decimation by an ongoing budget cuts, lack of community support, public apathy, no support from Central Government (apart from continual and extremely annoying 'Consultation' about what do you want), being completely ignored by local authority councillors and officers.  You had an extremely strong and well supported Community Empowerment tool in your hands and you 'Dropped It'.

Why the contribution is important

Because community spirit it dying.

by Ardgay on June 25, 2018 at 04:52PM

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Comments

  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin June 28, 2018 at 09:22

    Thanks for your comment. Community Councils should be an important part of this discussion – how would you like to see them, or any other local decision making body, empowered to make a difference?
  • Posted by SimonBrooke August 21, 2018 at 11:43

    Community Councils have no powers and no independent revenue, and that's part of the reason they lack public engagement, are vulnerable to elite or closed-group capture, and are failing.

    Community Councils are also often organised for the convenience of the beaurocracy and not that of the communities they serve; for instance, several otherwise unrelated villages are commonly being lumped together as a single community council area.

    The solution is to transfer most or all powers and revenue from existing councils to community council level; to allow community councils to form voluntary collectives to run public services which transcend community boundaries; and for community council boundaries to be altered only by local referenda.
  • Posted by MJReid August 26, 2018 at 18:01

    Community Councils need to be fully accessible to and inclusive of their local communities. They need a budget to do this as well as training in how to be fully inclusive. It should not be up to individual members to bring this knowledge/skills to the table. There needs to be a funding package available for each Council to ensure this takes place.
  • Posted by JohnnyM September 05, 2018 at 20:28

    Agree with MJ Reid. Also believe that community councils need to be given genuine powers and funding - without either I believe increased empowerment will be an aspiration without any real prospect of attainment. They will continue to be largely irrelevant on significant local decisions.

    In reality, both national and local government appear to fear enhanced local decision making..
  • Posted by Gingerwill September 10, 2018 at 20:21

    As pointed out previously and as we are talking about Local Democracy

    There are not elected by the local community.

    You find that they are dominated time after time by the same people with their own agenda
  • Posted by SuzieQue September 18, 2018 at 19:30

    I agree with Gingerwill's basic thrust.

    I am reluctant to criticize Community Councils as I believe that a large number of those who become involved do so out of a desire to try to make things better.

    But..... they are not elected, and they are not accountable. They have no obligation, or indeed incentive, to act in a way which is representative of all local people (and as has already been said elsewhere we don't necessarily have much in common just because we live close together geographically).

    As such I would oppose giving them more powers until there is an obligation for contested elections, based on accessible manifestos. Powers should not be given without checks and balances. Checks and balances are a cornerstone of democracy, designed to stop any one individual of group becoming too powerful.

     Although civil servants have come in for some criticism in these posts, I believe that they are an essential 'check and balance' - professional financial and legal advice is essential, as is access to professional advice on whatever the subject of a decision is. There needs to be some form of individual responsibility for decisions taken, to ensure that decisions are taken in good faith, after due diligence, with regard to all relevant information.

    The present Community Council set up does not provide a sound framework to ensure the level of accountability necessary for anyone who puts themselves forward as a community representative, or the support necessary for sound decision making. For this reason no further powers should be devolved to Community Councils in their current form, or to any similar body.
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin September 20, 2018 at 10:22

    Thank you to everyone who has comments. It's particularly important to us that we hear some suggested solutions to the issues being raised, which certainly seem to be emerging on this thread. We're interested to hear from others who have any thoughts on "Community Councils - Why are they not working for communities?" (great topic raised by Ardgay!)
  • Posted by Lal September 20, 2018 at 10:56

    I've never heard about my local community council, I have no idea who they are, what they do or even if they exist. If more decision making is going to be devolved to community councils then there needs to be an obligation on them to reach out to their local communities.

    Suzieque refers to the need to have a framework for accountability for anyone who puts themselves forward as a community representative etc - isn't this what we already have through our system of local Councillors?
  • Posted by mikevickers September 26, 2018 at 23:44

    I am a member of our local Community Council and whenever asked as to the role of the Community Council I report our role as stated in the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1973
    “The statutory purposes of community councils established under the Model Scheme are set out in Section 51 (2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, as follows: -
     ‘’In addition to any other purpose which a community council may pursue, the general purpose of a community council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable’’ “
    Superficially we have all we need to act as an erstwhile Town Council. In particular we can “take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable’’.
    In practice we have no such power. We can and do “ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community”. However, with few exceptions the Local Authority takes no cognisance of the views of the community as we express. Indeed, in most cases the Local Authority does not even acknowledge our expression.
    A comment was made previously that our role surely is the role of our elected representative councillors. Whilst this is partly true, our councillors have expressed to me that as elected councillors their responsibility is to the Local Authority as a whole rather than to our local Town.
    I also find it extremely disappointing that we are excluded to participate in our Local Area Committee made up as it is of our Councillors and Local Authority Officials. We are merely allowed to listen to them reporting to each other on matters relating to the Town as they see it. There is no opportunity for us to follow up directly on “ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community”.
    BTW I was elected to the Community Council.
  • Posted by KenQxcc September 30, 2018 at 16:22

    I believe that Community Councils are not working because they have not been given enough powers and seen as irrelevant by participants. I offer two recent examples.

    1. I am secretary of a community council and several large houses have been converted to offices in our area to the extent there are many large multi coloured billboards down the main road in our area advertising "empty office space". (We are in Aberdeen with a very large amount of empty office space.) We protest when yet other Planning application goes in from a developer asking for yet another private house to be converted to offices. We always are overruled by the Council Planning Dept who advise Councillors to allow the application which they do. This is despite the first planning policy criteria "that the development must have due consideration for its context and make a positive contribution to its setting" and 'Does not have an unacceptable impact on the character or amenity of
    the surrounding area", and of course we have no right of appeal. Hence our area is deteriorating as a residential site, and we have no power to stop the process.
    2. Despite the Empowerment Act actually referring to Community Councils as relevant Community bodies our Community Planning Unit in the Council do NOT have Community Councils as one of the community bodies which they consult. Nor do the Council have any Community Council representatives on the various committees which constitute and advise on the Local Outcome Improvement Plan.
    It was hoped the New Planning Act presently proceeding through the Scottish parliament would give added powers to communities (Local Place Plans, ERA etc) but the recent letter by Kevin Stewart on behalf of the Govt does not offer much optimism on that front. We await results from Stage 2 and 3 on the Bill.
  • Posted by mikevickers October 08, 2018 at 15:18

    I suggest, as I reported in an earlier comment, that Community Councils do have the power they require as is set out in the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.
    But I suggest that we have never used that power to any extent with our Local Authorities. Local Authorities have no wish to listen to us: they have their own ideas as what is good for us and bring all the powers they have at their command to do as they wish. It would be interesting if a Community Council took their Local Authority to court to establish once for all a Community Council’s right to Act on behalf of their community.
    Ardgay suggests that we are well supported by the recent Community Empowerment Act; I suggest otherwise. Community Councils are indeed recognised as a Community Body within the Act but so far and no further. The key body featured in the Community Empowerment Act is the Community Planning Partnership sitting at Local Authority level; when did the Community Planning Partnership last visit your community; ours hasn’t in my memory.
    I compare the ‘democratic deficit’ in Scotland with that in other countries across Europe and Scandinavia. For those who have not read it, I commend the COSLA (yes I do mean COSLA) report on ameliorating the deficit throughout the Scottish community; https://issuu.com/cosla/docs/final_report_august_2014.
    COSLA suggest that the number of Local Authorities be increased to 100; I would prefer a three tier arrangement; a return to the Old Town Council with real power and money raised locally. But the key here is that COSLA itself recognises the failure of its limited number of Local Authorities (32) to represent the people of Scotland adequately.
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