April 20, 2016
This relationship needs sorted
Last Saturday I attended an event organised by Midlothian’s community councils to discuss the thorny question of how communities can exert more influence over the planning system. It could easily have been one long whinge of a meeting but was in fact quite the opposite. Very positive, thoughtful contributions all day long and a genuine willingness to work with the Council. Hard to understand why the Council isn’t working hand in glove with these folk. Building productive relationships with Community Councils is clearly an issue for some Councils – in East Dunbartonshire for instance.
The newly formed Association of Community Councils has condemned the massive funding cuts being imposed by East Dunbartonshire Council on them.
The basic grant to Community Councils in East Dunbartonshire is being axed across the board. In one case alone Baldernock Community Council faces a 49 per cent cut.
Gordon Carmichael, convenor of the Association of East Dunbartonshire Community Councils, said: “In March last year, the chairs and convenors of each Community Council were invited by the council leader, Councillor Geekie, to consider how we might work together to improve the worsening relationship between this local authority and the 12 Community Councils in the area.
“Since then our Association has been formed, and a major strategy has been to establish a collaborative approach to this working relationship.
“Our members have been working extremely hard to enhance this relationship but this most recent and major decision by the council, made without any prior discussion or consultation, completely undermines our members work and betrays any trust we were building. If anything, it serves as evidence of just how challenging our task has been.
“Furthermore, to unilaterally impose the same cut to each Community Council, irrespective of the size of the population which they represent and serve, displays a wanton disregard for the impact of such financial constraints.”
Community Councils have a statutory function and provide an interface between the people of their area and their local authority. Community Council members give their time voluntarily, but there are significant administrative costs incurred to ensure properly managed Community Councils can perform their function and provide community interaction.
The recent Community Empowerment Bill legislation calls on communities to stand up and take on a role to improve the environment, services and wellbeing of their communities.
Mr Carmichael added: “Cutting funding to the point of exterminating a Community Council goes completely against the grain of this new legislation. The Association has written to Council Officers seeking reconsideration of this measure.”