For the 'local' many - but what about the few?

Devolving to some remote/rural local communities with ageing populations with more traditional values, local elite groups and a lack of diverse representation is potentially extremely dangerous for women,  care experienced young people, LGBT individuls and BME individuals. . 

Why the contribution is important

In many areas LA already deny community issues of discrimination, prejudice or entrenched misogny directed towards things like domestic and sexual violence services, foodbanks and refugees. Some services really rely on central policy 

by herocat on July 24, 2018 at 11:11AM

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Comments

  • Posted by SuzieQue July 25, 2018 at 21:26

    I logged on specifically to make a comment about equality - I'm very pleased to see I've been beaten to it. I hope others will consider Herocat's points very carefully.

    I agree with Herocat that devolution of decision making to small groups of self selecting individuals may be problematic in terms of ensuring that diversity is recognised, and that diverse needs are met.

    It seems to me that the smaller the geographic area, or the population in question, the less account that would be paid to any dissenting voice or different set of needs or circumstances. Minorities will be even smaller. They may not have the critical mass to be recognised and taken account of. They may well feel and be more isolated, powerless and disadvantaged.

  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 27, 2018 at 13:41

    Hi Herocat & Suzie,

    We recognise the importance of ensuring any new forms of decision-making that might come from the review are inclusive, and able to reflect the diverse needs and views present in any community. Having strong forms of accountability for those decisions is an important part of any system of ‘checks and balances’.

    Participation in new forms of decision-making would not be on the basis of self-selection, again to ensure diversity and inclusiveness. We are interested in people’s views on how that selection might take place. One idea is that people could be selected randomly- this is done now to select people for jury duty. We want to hear peoples thoughts and ideas.
  • Posted by AJ July 30, 2018 at 14:08

    Hi Admin

    It would be self-selecting. You would be asking people to get involved in local issues, to spend time, possible even to a similar level as Community Councils - as volunteers. If it isn't a paid job, with an equality selection procedure, it is by default, self selecting.

    Random is also not genuinely representative. This is why survey research has to be weighted.

    The minorities that could be excluded could just as equally be the special interest group driving a project - excluding somebody. Correcting one imbalance by creating another one isn't progress. The whole point of our existing structures is representation - people are telling you there are problems with that. more layers =/= more accountable. and accountable to whom!

    Diversity as described above, also education, physical capacity to engage and means to access digital.
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 31, 2018 at 11:12

    Hi AJ, thanks for joining the conversation! Some very good points, points that we are considering. Do you have any suggestions on how we could overcome or manage these challenges?
  • Posted by Kulthoz August 17, 2018 at 14:42

    I agree that there is a danger here particularly for communities with little or no voice. Take Brexit for example, the people who will be impacted most weren't allowed to vote as they are all below voting age. The Scottish Government was against Brexit but now has to live with it.

    It could potentially end up much the same where people may not know that something like this is happening locally and then decisions are made which only benefit those in the know.

    As had already been mentioned, it's more likely that people with more time on their hands will get involved and that is more likely to be those who are retired and (again as Brexit showed) may not share the same view as small (or even large) parts of their community who may have less influence/time to influence.

    I would add that I do like the idea of more local democracy and I will think upon suggestions that I may have myself. I do have to agree with Herocat that caution needs to be used to ensure that everyone really does have a chance to be involved and that clear safeguards are in place. Local people shouldn't be able to breach legislation around the nine protected characteristics for example, just because they feel that this is against their world view.
  • Posted by SimonBrooke August 21, 2018 at 11:32

    Community Councils at present fall into the hands of the self-selecting at least partly because they have no power, so few people are very much concerned with them.

    However, in a capitalist society, there is a structural problem with ability to perform community duties. Those with leisure to engage in politics at community level are typically the rich, the self-employed, and the retired; they're also systematically more likely to be men, because we still overwhelmingly assume women will take on care-giving.

    Furthermore, we don't (even nearly) have equality of articulacy, or equality of self confidence. Some social groups have systematocally less articulacy and self confidence than others - are more empowered to put themselves forward, and more likely to be listened to by others. Consequently those groups tend also to be overrepresented;.

    There's intersectionality in this. The rich, the self employed and the retired are also on the whole more likely to be articulate and self confident.

    Dedicated community activists who try to engage in community level politics while at the same time holding down a full-time job and caring for a family tend to burn out, and in Scotland in particular there is too little support for them - we are, as a nation, very quick to criticise, and very slow to praise.

    These are problems which people who (like me) support localism cannot duck. And it's very well to say 'what we need is full communism now', but sadly that isn't likely to happen. But these issues can be at least partly addressed, and they must be addressed if we're to build local democracy.

    Universal Basic Income would help with this, as it would help with many other issues facing Scotland. It would not be sufficient in itself.

    Training for Community Council members - training most of all in matters that support articulacy, self confidence, team building and co-operation - should be provided in a way which is attractive to participants, and at no cost to the participant. Events which allow community council members from across wider areas should also be organised at no cost to participants. To build capacity, it would also be worth offering attractive, no cost training for people thinking of standing for election as a community councillor.
  • Posted by MJReid August 26, 2018 at 18:21

    Too often self-selection takes place because of how the information about involvement is produced. It is not inclusive or accessible, then self -selection happens with the people who understand what is being asked. The converse of this is that when information is made accessible for one group and they are then expected to be interested in everything to do with the topic across the whole of the country, that specific group becomes fatigued and so withdraws support.
    For example, public bodies are consulting on their BSL Local Plans in their functions under the the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. These public bodies are consulting with a very small group of people - BSL users in Scotland (12,533 people at the last Census). All the public bodies want an opinion on what BSL users want to see in these plans, which is right and proper, but BSL users are the same as everyone else - some will be interested, others will be interested in a small part, others will have no interest at all. When the pool of people is so small, those who start off being interested can soon lose that desire to have input and so there comes a saturation point.
    This happens in any community of interest...if information on the topic is not inclusive and accessible, then even those with an interest soon lose their interest and involvement is lost. How will the government - national and local - ensure that saturation point is not reach sooner rather than later on all input from its citizens?
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin September 20, 2018 at 10:46

    Some fantastic points raised. We're hearing a lot of simlar thoughts from those we are speaking to offline too. Particulaly interested to hear any more suggested solutions to the issues raised in this thread so far.
  • Posted by MJReid November 20, 2018 at 14:43

    This whole conversation is a case in point...Where was the widespread information on getting involved in the conversation. I have seen nothing in the press or any other media. Our local Community Council had not been told about it neither had several grassroots groups that I am involved in.

    Democracy Matters...but it doesn't really.

    If it had, then more would have been done to make sure all citizens in Scotland were aware of the consultation. Events would have been made inclusive and accessible...how many were cafe-style - which are not accessible to people with a language/communication support need . Were events open to members of the public? I have yet to see anything locally about the consultation and it is in its final days.

    There has to be a more accessible way of involving all citizens in Scotland in the democratic process. Not everyone is online, on social media, involved in an organisation...where is the imagination? Creativity? Inclusion? Accessibility?

    I was told about it through a piece of work I am doing as a consultant...if I hadn't, I would not have known it was taking place. I carried out a straw poll on friends and family, and nobody knew that this "conversation" was taking place. Democracy Matters...

  • Posted by Aspinall November 30, 2018 at 09:08

    How to reach those in the community who may have an interest and opinion in a subject is a great problem and even when a consultation is known about other things happening in life sometimes means you don't take part. Also, the subject may not seem to have a relevance at the time of the consultation, for example planning policies, which can also be arcane, will have an effect for the next ten years but only when an application to be judged against the policy is lodged do ordinary people realise this.

    There is a lack of support for communities to help to understand consultations and the ramifications from them. This includes ensuring that vulnerable and hard to reach sectors of the community are informed and enabled to take part in consultations. Monitoring of respondents can only show retrospectively which groups in society have been engaged in the consultation and often the results of the monitoring are only known afterwards.

    The local community council praises itself on the consultation and has a certificate to prove its competence but none of it consultations has been validated and all contact with the community is either by Facebook or an email contact list. As this list is formed largely from that gathered when a particular single issue was live it is skewed towards one section of the community. Therefore, even when a consultation is publicised locally, it does not reach a representative sample.

    It is difficult at times to pick out important consultations from the many surveys and consultations carried out by central and local government. On the City of Edinburgh's consultation hub there's probably a dozen consultations taking place at one time so it' difficult to pick out the wheat from the chaff.
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