Governance (noun) :gov-er-nance. The act or process of governing or overseeing the control and direction of a country or an organisation. Perhaps not the most riveting of subjects, but the longer I look, the more convinced I become that whenever communities are being thwarted in achieving their goals, the root causes can usually be traced back to our failing systems of governance. And as such, the impact of the investment that supports community endeavour is continually undermined by our collective reluctance to review, and if necessary reform, those governance systems. The stop-start stuttering Local Governance Review has yet to land a punch, but the optimist in me retains a flicker of hope that it still might. A more recent illustration of governance frailty is the sudden appearance in Scotland of the UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up. With very deep and Treasury-backed pockets, they can expect a warm welcome from cash strapped Councils and communities alike. But have they spoken with the Scottish Government about their plans? Do they align with national spending priorities? And how are communities supposed to make any sense of it? At some point we’re going to need some answers. It’s a strange way to run a country.
In the most recent briefing…
The Community Empowerment legislation is almost seven years old but some of the key messages in that Act continue to escape their target audiences. Here’s one of them – when a community requests that a public asset be transferred to it, there’s a presumption in law that the public body will support that request. A community group on Barra are currently celebrating victory after a long and difficult battle to have the council’s plans to demolish a community shop and visitor centre overturned with ownership transferred to them. With two previous requests refused, this was third time lucky on appeal. Why?
There is a disconnect between what we intuitively know and understand about the value of community led health provision, and a compelling evidence base that would unequivocally make the case for funding this work and for it to be recognised as much more than an outlier of mainstream health and care provision. Instead, if the community provision was effectively resourced, the intolerable pressures on primary and secondary health providers would begin to ease. A major new research venture, which is bringing together all the key partners, aims to find that missing evidence base.
It’s easy to forget about, or not even to be aware of, the wider networks and movements that exist to support the smallest, hyper-local community groups. Just getting on with the day to day job can be all consuming, but sometimes it’s encouraging to know that there are like minded people out there ready to offer support and advice. Working with Scotland’s many community networks, the Community Learning Exchange helps to make connections with like minded groups across the country. And beyond Scotland, it’s worth remembering there’s a global network of localised action to connect with too.
One of the zeitgeisty policy ideas doing the rounds is the 20 minute neighbourhood – the idea that we should all be able to meet our day-to-day needs within a 20 minute walk of our home. It’s an attractive idea because it ticks several big policy boxes simultaneously – climate, public health, travel – and so it’s no surprise the Scottish Government is so enthusiastic about it. How to translate a great idea into a reality is less clear – particularly for rural Scotland. Interesting piece in New Start journal on the prospect of a 30 minute rural neighbourhood.
The Scottish Government’s recent consultation on how to end the need for food banks sounds like a statement of serious intent. Of course, food poverty doesn’t exist in isolation. With fuel bills rising and inflation around 6%-7%, in or out of work, not having enough money is a constant factor in the lives of millions of people. The very significant step towards a Universal Basic Income by the Welsh Government, targeting a group well known to struggle more than most, should provide some important pointers if food banks are ever to be consigned to the history books.
It seems fairly self-evident that our energy systems are not in good shape. The coming spike in fuel prices only serves to highlight a dysfunctional market and for some time now there have been calls for a much more decentralised energy economy – with the community energy sector playing a key role to play. Community Energy Scotland along with its sister organisations across the UK carries out an annual State of the Sector survey and would ask anyone with an interest in energy – either on the supply or demand side (or both) – to take part.
Birse covers over 125sq. km on Deeside in the north-east of Scotland. The parish (district) has four main parts: the three scattered rural communities of Finzean, Ballogie and Birse and the largely uninhabited Forest of Birse, which covers over a quarter of the parish’s total area. The parish has around 330 households, with half of the population living in Finzean and half in Ballogie and Birse.Find out more