What's your experience?

Tell us about your experiences of getting involved in decision-making processes that affect your local community or community of interest.

Why the contribution is important

Many people will have experienced decision-making processes that affect their lives and the public services they rely upon - whether at a national or local level.  How easy is it to get involved and have your say?  We are keen to hear what can help you share your ideas for what can help your community to thrive.  Some people may feel excluded from these decision-making processes.  It is crucial we understand the barriers experienced.

 

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

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  • Posted by eucalyptus September 12, 2018 at 14:31

    Involving community members in local government decision making processes will only be meaningful when all parties in the process are equal.

    There are many local government decisions that affect members of the public, but arguably the most obvious are planning decisions and local licensing decisions. In both cases, it does not appear that community members are equal in the decision making process and I highlight with examples:

    - In a recent planning decision in the Midlothian council area, despite a clear objection by a Community Council based on the local neighbourhood plan (supported in it's development by the local council) it was made clear in the planning report that the local neighbourhood plan was 'not a material consideration'. This sends a message that the community view is unimportant and lacking validity.

    - In the same (and a number of other planning cases) in Midlothian where legitimate, demonstrable and material objections to planning applications based on matters including residential amenity, privacy rights, road safety, and environmental impact (in most cases upheld by the professional planning officers) have been overruled by Local review Bodies or Local Councillors on the grounds of 'economic benefit'. This sends a message that business is valued higher than residents and community members.

    - In terms of licencing, the process used to consider and make decisions typically involves an 'applicant' and 'agent' (a licencing lawyer) making an application. Community members or local residents are able to object or make representations but such representations must be legally relevant and based on licensing objectives - community members and local residents typically do not receive legal support or advice, nor is there support from local councils to ensure that those making objections or representations are significantly supported through the process, or advised in a manner to allow them to present their views in a clear, relevant manner. As a result, the process is unfairly weighted in favour of applicants and agents and the public/community voice can be reduced to a 'token' point in the procedure.
  • Posted by Doctorjee September 27, 2018 at 06:45

    I have two experiences of getting involved in decision making, in common with almost all voters in Scotland - the two recent referendums.

    Regardless of whether you agree with the outcome of either, it is quite clear that both failed to resolve the issue, or settle the issue in the longer term. Both can be argued to have deepened divisions and acrimony in not just politics but in society as well.

    The conclusion I draw is that direct involvement of 'the people' in decision making has not proved successful.

    Because 'the people have spoken' politicians and others who continue to hold contrary views are branded undemocratic. Thus a 'democratic' referendum is used to undermine the authority of 'democratic' representatives.

    How will the similar tensions, which are bound to arise in local areas, be managed?

    My conclusion is that I would prefer to support elected representatives, who we allow to change their minds in light of emerging evidence, and who can be replaced over time, rather than some vague concept of 'the will of the people' which seems to then be above challenge.

    Please be careful before tinkering with the sound democratic foundations of our country.

    If sections of society feel unrepresented, the onus is on our representatives to up their game - it is not an appropriate response for them to abdicate responsibility by 'letting the people decide,' for all of the reasons expressed elsewhere in this conversation - lack of accountability, lack of 'representativeness' etc etc.

    We have evidence that this abdication on the part of our elected representatives can lock us into very grave consequences, and that our current democratic system is unable to respond appropriately.

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