Cycling through the white villages of Andalusia on Spain’s implausibly smooth roads, under warm blue skies, is pretty much my dream holiday. And for me holidays are often about the contrasts, for good or ill, that we draw with life back home. Aside from the obvious absence of potholes, what struck me most as we meandered through those villages was the fastidious care given to their public realm. With pavements and kerbs the responsibility of residents – constantly seen sweeping up the dust and occasional litter from in front of their houses – and the busy village plazas and public spaces falling to the ubiquitous municipal worker. However small or poor a village seemed to be, their civic pride was self-evident. And I suspect Spain’s uniquely chaotic system of local government has something to do with this. Predominantly a bottom up, demand-led arrangement, albeit with a hefty dose of top-down coordination, it has evolved out of the Franco era. As heterogeneous and hyper-local as ours is homogenous and centralised, local government in Spain seems specifically tailored to suit its people with the precise form being largely determined by local preference. Messy it may be but if citizens feel truly engaged, isn’t that the point?
In the most recent briefing…
The justification for our banks moving off the High Street and onto our mobile phones and home computers, is that there is simply no demand for over the counter services. While that may be true for the majority of customers, there’s still a significant minority – small businesses and those who are digitally disadvantaged in various ways – for whom it isn’t. Cambuslang Community Council weren’t content with what they saw happening, undertook some market research and became one of two Scottish test sites for the UK wide Community Access to Cash Pilot. Out of which emerged an ingenious idea – the BankHUB.
The community based housing movement, mostly operating in and around Glasgow, is something of a paradox. Constantly producing great outcomes for its tenants and demonstrating beyond question the ability of communities to run a highly complex public service such as housing, at the same time they never quite manage to convince the powers that be, and specifically the Housing Regulator, that locally run, small scale housing providers should be the future of social housing. So it was particularly gratifying for them to see the independent Glasgow Place Commission give them such a ringing endorsement
After the financial crash of 2008 when Iceland’s politicians and bankers were found to have been in cahoots with a number being subsequently jailed, there was a popular groundswell of support to draft a new constitution for the country that would specifically address the issue of powerful vested interests subverting democracy. Similarly encouraging signs of popular democratic renewal have been observed recently in Chile – a country not without its democratic challenges in the past. In both countries, despite massive popular support during the process, somehow those vested interests managed to cling on. Lessons to be learned.
As the machinations to create a new National Care Service continue, the reality is that most care work is carried out under the radar, mostly unpaid and rarely acknowledged as productive work. And because the burden of care falls disproportionately on women, it also serves to deepen gender inequality and excludes many women from engaging as fully as they might with what society has to offer. Interesting experiment in the Columbian city of Bogota – instead of expecting carers to engage with the City, the City is taking its resources to the carer. Care Blocks -a 20 minute neighbourhood for carers?
Important moment last week with the publication of the latest draft of the fourth National Planning Framework. This is the high level, overarching point of reference for all planning decisions going forward and is an expression of where the Scottish Government’s planning priorities lie. On a quick inspection it seems strong on climate and biodiversity, lots of positive noises about moving towards the much vaunted wellbeing economy with an emphasis on community ownership and, the latest zeitgeist, community wealth building. On resolving the housing crisis, not so good – a clear victory signalled for the volume housebuilders.
The community of Huntly and District established Huntly & District Development Trust (HDDT) in 2009 as a follow up to the Aberdeenshire Towns Partnership (ATP), which aimed to help towns in the shire become better places to live, work and visit. Located on the periphery of Aberdeenshire, Huntly missed out on the oil and gas boom enjoyed by Aberdeen and its nearby towns. Huntly’s residents have instead learned how to make their own luck and are not afraid to do things differently. One key example is HDDT’s embrace of green initiatives. The Trust purchased a local farm, Greenmyres, to use it…Find out more