What does 'local' mean to you

When thinking about  decision-making, ‘local’ could mean a large town, a village, or a neighbourhood. What does ‘local’ mean to you and your community? 

Why the contribution is important

If more decisions are to be taken by communities, we would have to decide on the scale at which this would work: this could be at a very local level but would depend on the decision being made, the skills and expertise required, and the potential impact on different people.  It’s unlikely that the answer will be the same for every place or community. Through the Review we want to understand what types and sizes of community make most sense to people, and why.  It’s a complicated issue, and we want to hear what you think would work.


by LocalGovernanceAdmin on May 24, 2018 at 03:28PM

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  • Posted by bauhausmodern June 15, 2018 at 14:55

    to me, local means 'small scale/intimate' and 'close to me' - this can be translated geographically as well as conceptually in terms of 'local issues', similar to the concept of 'community' and 'community of interest'
  • Posted by KayBee June 25, 2018 at 12:27

    To me local means local. Look in the dictionary
  • Posted by ShelleyHague June 25, 2018 at 14:49

    Manageable sized communities where in partnership we can empower/support/deliver service provision - linked to community empowerment
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin June 28, 2018 at 09:21

    Hello, Brian here from the LGR team. If we start with geography what size makes sense to people? Rural and urban perspectives are bound to differ! For the (urban dwelling) person I spoke to a few days ago it was the Leith walk area - this has approximately 25,000 people living within an 800m radius – the highest population density in Scotland. Far from ‘typical’ but no arguably no place is.
  • Posted by Andy55 July 04, 2018 at 19:23

    A patchwork of little decision making bodies across Scotland risks policy fragmentation, confusion and inefficiency. Substantial devolution of meaningful powers to very small bodies seems likely to me to produce a fragmented, confusing and inefficient outcome.

    Taking the Leith Walk example, I'm struggling to think of a public service that should be delivered differently on Leith Walk than on Easter Road, or Bonnington Road. I'm struggling to see the benefit to the people in each of these locations from such differentiation.

    I know that 'one size fits all' approaches are not popular, but too much fragmentation of policy and service delivery risks a 'post code lottery' which may be even worse!
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 06, 2018 at 13:07

    Andy, We appreciate that you have concerns. All the issues you have raised, we are aware of and will be considered.
    In your opinion would you say that Leith Walk, Easter Road & Bonnington Road are their own localities? What does “local” mean to you?
  • Posted by IanLowe July 23, 2018 at 17:27

    rural perspectives do, indeed differ - here in my wee bit of Argyll, "local" covers a huge area, but not a lot of people. I'm a bit disappointed to come here and see a lot of people instantly trying to shoot down the idea of smaller councils - they clearly haven't experience Argyll and Bute. Our council headquarters is a drive of 1hr 40 and a ferry ride away. We absolutely need the ability to make decision about pretty much every aspect of local life (school provision, roads, bin collection, culture etc.) made closer to home - because the folks in Kilmory might as well be on the Moon.
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 25, 2018 at 09:56

    Hi Ian, thanks for joining the conversation and providing your rural perspective. We need to ensure any new arrangements can fully reflect the huge diversity of local circumstances experienced by different communities. In your circumstances is Kilmory about the right size for taking the types of decisions you mention? And would this require a new, smaller, more local council, or are there other ways this could be made to work?
  • Posted by SuzieQue July 25, 2018 at 21:58

    It seems to me that trying to decide what local means before we know what services we are talking about is putting the cart before the horse. The answer may well be different for different services.

    In many cases, someone has to make decisions that balance the respective needs of different geographic communities. Can communities really do this themselves?

  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 27, 2018 at 13:38

    Hi Suzie, you are quite right, understanding the type of services or issues that might be of interest to communities is crucial and we are asking that question too. Do you have any thoughts on this – it could be components of a service rather than a ‘whole’ service? You also mention balancing need across geography – does this have implications for what ‘local’ might mean?
  • Posted by Swannie July 27, 2018 at 13:50

    For me local is anywhere close to home, work or along my commuting route.

    If we were to only talk about local being close to where you stay this will vary for rural/urban. When I lived in the country, for example I would call the closest supermarket (about 15miles away) my LOCAL supermarket and my closest cinema (about 30miles away) my LOCAL cinema.

    In the city, amenities are much closer I'd say I'm much less likely to call something that was 15+ miles away local.
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin July 31, 2018 at 11:13

    Hello, interesting perspective on local being more than just the area you live!

    More and more we’re seeing the differences between rural and urban.

    Interested to hear what others have to say on this topic.
  • Posted by RosiePosie August 09, 2018 at 15:23

    Coming new to the discussion but from a background of 20 years as a local government officer at a fairly senior level (where efficiency was the driver) but now seeing things forma different perspective, as my interest in democracy works, or doesn't.

    I think"local" means different things in different circumstances - but what it often means is what people identify with. So I worked for Central Region pre 1996 - jeez, NO-ONE identified with CRC; it was an entirely manufactured geographic area. Post 1996, I worked for a much, much smaller unitary authority - probably too small to be "economic" in today's environment - but one with which the residents generally identified.

    If I was reorganising local government, I would base the boundaries on the catchment areas of primary and secondary schools. Without wanting to teach Granny to suck eggs, all primary schools have a geographic area that they serve; all secondary schools have a set of associated primary schools and the geographic areas amalgamate up to make a de facto catchment area for a secondary school.

    People tend to associate with schools and the links can be very strong (try closing one). Education is a pretty much universal service.

    So the smallest a local authority area could be is the catchment area of one secondary school. A quick look at some stats, there are 360 secondary schools in Scotland. We can exclude the island ones, as the have a good sense of local identity and have operated as unitary authorities ofr a long time.

    So we probably wouldn't want 350 local authorities with 15000 in each, but you can see where this might go.

    I think it would be hard for these small authorities to deliver the bigger services like education and social work, but I would have area boards to deliver these services and these boards would be run by representatives of all the constituent local authorities - not by another tier of government.

    National services like NHS, Police and Fire would reflect the structure of the area boards in their own internal structures, so that reporting and monitoring would be easier.

    Finally, I think, I would harmonise the terms and conditions of all public service staff (including the civil service (probably have to post-Indy for that) to encourage easy movement of expertise from one area of employment to another and help to reduce silo working.

    Just my thoughts - I'm sure there are huge gaps but there they are.
  • Posted by SimonBrooke August 21, 2018 at 11:55

    Surely 'local' from a community perpspective means a place in which each member recognises on sight - even if they don't know by name - the majority of other members; a place in which for any elector, there is at least one representative whom they know personally in their everyday life.

    For context, there is one single ward in Highland which is bigger than seven independent European countries put together; Highland itself is bigger than Belgium. The average Scottish council has a larger population than 16% of all the independent countries in the world.

    Langholm, in Dumfries and Galloway, is 119 miles from Drummore, also in Dumfries and Galloway, and - according to Google's mapping system - it will take you 4 hours and eight minutes to drive. If you didn't fancy Drummore, you could get to Stafford, in Staffordshire, in one minute less; or Dunkeld, in Perthshire, in five minutes less. This isn't 'local' in any sense of the word.
  • Posted by SuzieQue September 18, 2018 at 19:40

    I'm not sure from reading this thread why the underlying thrust of the discussion seems to be that local decision making would automatically be better. Where is the evidence that there is more likely to be consensus amongst a smaller group of people than a larger group?

    It seems to me a more likely outcome would be more bitter disputes, as any disagreement may become more 'personal' in a small community where the protagonists on each side of a debate would be more likely to know each other. Even in a single street, you are likely to get the same wide range of views on what the Council should collect in the recycling bins, how often they should be collected, what the optimum hours are for a library, where public toilets should be located, what facilities a community centre should offer, and the opening hours for early learning and childcare as you would in the whole town.

    Where is the evidence that small scale decision making produces better outcomes, or satisfies more people?
  • Posted by LocalGovernanceAdmin September 27, 2018 at 11:17

    Hi SuzieQue, Part of the challenge is to pinpoint which decisions if taken closer to communities could lead to better outcomes. There will be a number of issues where decision making will be better undertaken at a different level – and this could be for a variety of reasons. However, we have heard people’s frustration about “distant decision makers”, and there are instances where community decision making has delivered benefits for local people. For example, people on the Western Isles came together to commission their bus services. We’ll also be looking much further afield to consider the experiences in a range of different countries.
  • Posted by Patricia October 17, 2018 at 22:24

    Rosie Posie’s comment on local boundaries following school catchment areas is interesting and sounds sensible -until you see what can happen in a rural area: One ‘local’ secondary school intake covers several primary schools and several of those primary schools take children from up to four different Community Council areas! A few years back the catchment area of two of the primary schools was changed at the request of ONE family without consulting the other 5/6 families who were affected by the change. This also impacted the total number of children attending one of the primary schools to the extent the Teacher allocation was reduced. That is the sort of decision which would not have been made by someone with local knowledge.
    Of course, you always come down to the competence and diligence of whoever is making the decision. But the criticism of Town based decision makers having no understanding of the rural areas needs is very common. Maybe if there was some way to ensure every area could have adequate representation it might be that the form of representation would need to be different in rural areas than that in more densely populated areas?
  • Posted by desmartin November 12, 2018 at 11:22

    What is local and as you can see it means different things to different people depending on your area and where you live. Rosie Posie August 9th gives I think a very useful rationale of how to define smaller local communities with her previous experience of working in small and larger local authorities. The School catchment area is certainly a good idea as it has approx 15000 people in each one and defines very well and strong local partnership group all bound together for education. This means Rural Areas would have a much larger catchment area as appropriate compared to Urban.
    I suppose other suggestions need to be considered, they could be local council voting boundaries, (maybe a bit large now) Local town or village and do they all need to have the same number of participants are some of the basic questions to ask. On reflecting! Do we need to have them all of the same size? Do they need to be permanent etc
  • Posted by Aspinall November 29, 2018 at 15:19

    Some of the boundaries suggested on this theme bring with them a difficulty in that the border can be artificial drawn to meet a certain need (eg equivalence of children numbers within a catchment area) and do not reflect the community residents may attach themselves to. There is the thought that a community defines it own boundary but living in an area of a large city that had once been it own municipality, there is no clear modern boundary of those who associate with the former town. This is evident from those who frequent the local on-line forum but live way beyond any physical boundary but do associate themselves with the town.
    The problems with administrative boundaries already causes difficulties in planning where one community is not aware of an application because it is on the other side of the street, the boundary between wards running up the middle of the street. Maybe one of the first decisions to be reached by communities is what is the extent of that community - this may be achieved by having a people's jury type of decision making process. However, it may leave a deficit, especially in urban areas where a clear sense of local community is lacking, in interest for some areas. It would be easier in areas that already have a strong identity.
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