December 12, 2007
Community councils consultation
The SNP manifesto made specific commitments to look at ways of expanding the role of community councils. It’s likely that different models will be piloted to explore the various options. For instance, could community councils work with other local organisations to fulfil the role of an anchor organisation?
This paper is intended to focus a discussion on the proposed role of the Community Council Working Group (CCWG) in the debate about how the Government’s proposals to extend the role of Community Councils can be taken forward. It goes on to describe the issues that the CCWG might helpfully consider if they take on this extended responsibility. None of the discussion points or questions in this paper are meant to restrict the scope of this discussion; all ideas are welcomed.
Following the commitments set out in the SNP manifesto, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth has indicated that he wishes to examine expanding the roles and responsibilities which could be undertaken by Community Councils. The CCWG would be invited to identify and define proposed wider responsibilities as well as having an input in proposing potential pilot schemes to take this work forward.
The relevant manifesto commitments in relation to Community Councils are:
• We will review the role of community councils to make them more responsible, dynamic and representative. Devolving greater responsibilities to community councils will be a central consideration of this review.
• We will consult on proposals to make new local government ward boundaries the structural basis for new community councils, with increased powers. These powers could include directing a portion of current local spending in their area. As a starting point the consultation will seek views on a figure of £30,000 for every 1000 Scots or £300,000 for a community of 10,000 people – approximately the size of Fort William.
We see this piece of work as part of a wider commitment to empowering communities and enabling them to have a greater say in the decisions about what happens in their community.
We would like to initiate a discussion in the CCWG on where and how they see this work being taken forward and their potential role in it.
We need to ask ourselves what types of expanded roles could Community Councils play and what kind of additional powers should we consider? In attempting to make them more “responsible, dynamic and representative”, what might this practically entail?
In line with the manifesto commitment, this could involve Community Councils having responsibility for the allocation of resources to undertake civic/amenity projects in their area. By doing this Community Councils will have the opportunity to have a more effective voice for community representation over a wider range of public sector activities.
We are aware that, at present, there are several Community Councils undertaking some additional roles and responsibilities, as regards the allocation of resources. These Community Councils appear to be undertaking the type of expanded roles and responsibilities which may be seen as appropriate examples of the areas of expansion that the Government wishes to explore. Rather than unnecessarily duplicating this work, it may be sensible to identify these Community Councils and use some of them as pilots for the purpose of this exercise and to evaluate them in accordance with set criteria.
It has also been proposed that one way in which the outcome of empowering communities could be achieved would be to ensure that Community Councils have a clearer role in Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) . This has the potential to give the Community Council a key role in decision-making at a local level. Consideration would also need to be given to the wider context of Community Planning when looking at defining roles for Community Councils in CPPs.
Consideration could also be given to the idea that a Community Council, as an elected body, could act as a form of “anchor organisation”, working in partnership with other community groups to achieve consensus across the whole community on key local decisions, i.e. how funds should be allocated. If necessary they could, if consensus was not forthcoming, facilitate voting procedures on matters whereby they were able to direct funding etc to the projects/amenities preferred by the majority.
Consideration could be given to evaluating 2 or 3 Community Councils that currently work well with a view to considering the additional roles and functions that they currently undertake being rolled out to Community Councils who have the capacity and capability to undertake these devolved responsibilities.
In addition to the above, a further 1 or 2 Community Councils, who neither have nor want extended roles, could be subject to evaluation. Consideration could be given to the reasons as to why they do not wish to have extra responsibilities and in order to address this, look at what type of work would be needed to be done in order to make expanded roles and responsibilities attractive to them.
Finally, for comparison purposes, an evaluation could be carried out of 2 other community groups that are involved in CPPs (perhaps where Community Councils are not fully engaged). This could consider their role in community engagement and what influence they have as an effective voice for community representation over a range of public services.
Community Planning is a process which helps public agencies to work together with the community to plan and deliver better services which make a real difference to people’s lives. The aims of Community Planning in Scotland are:
• Making sure people and communities are genuinely engaged in the decisions made on public services which affect them; aligned to
• A commitment from organisations to work together, not apart, in providing better public services
In terms of engaging the community, the Community Planning Statutory Guidance states that there should be consultation and co-operation with a wide range of interests including:
• Community and voluntary organisations, whether delivering services or representing a specific area of interest which may be locally based or, where appropriate, a regional or national organisation. This could include a wide range of bodies such as: young people and youth work bodies who already make a valuable contribution to the planning and provision of services through their involvement in youth for a and their active citizenship; environmental bodies, rural bodies, consumer bodies; sports and cultural bodies;
• Community Councils fulfilling their role as representatives of their local area;
• Equalities groups and interests;
• Business, through representative organisations or businesses themselves;
• Trade unions as representative and democratic agencies;
• Professional interests.
It is for each Community Planning Partnership to decide how and who to engage (engagement is more than a place on a committee). In many cases Community Councils are involved – and a range of other organisations are also engaged as well.