In June 2012, a Scottish Government document claimed that East Lothian Community Councils were “leading the way” in providing a voice for local communities.
The intervening 18 months have seen an upsurge in people-powered political tools such as Avaaz, 38degrees, and All Out and, of course, there is the all-important and inescapable IndyRef which has got people of all walks of life talking about politics.
However, after a succession of inquorate meetings, one Community Council has resorted to reaching out to potential members via a video.
So, why the lack of interest in local governance?
Are the online discussions mere “slacktivism” and not an indication of increasing interest in all things political?
Do Community Councils still serve a purpose?
Do you know when and where your Community Council meets and where to read their minutes?
@LesleyRiddoch‘s book Blossom she described Community Councils as “toothless”. Is she right? Is that why people aren’t joining?
When these questions were posed on Twitter, the responses were interesting…
“I think we need to rethink what local democracy means in 21st century. Localism v efficiency v value. CCs should have statutory roles, but need 2 be responsible. Parochialism can mean loudest voice overrides need.”
“I considered joining, had a chat with the Chair, realised pretty quickly I wouldn’t fit in. Far too traditional.”
“some (but not all) cc’s push a party political agenda and many appear anti-young people. Both very off putting.”
“Some grps seethe w resentment that there’s no “new blood” without realising their attitude is barrier. Not just cc’s”
“I tried to encourage one to at least have a FB presence to inform / involve the locals. I was quickly dismissed.”
“No budget, no power and not uniform coverage. New units of local democracy needed more than ever.”
“Giving Com Councils the Local Councillors patronage budgets wld be a start, also training on planinng etc”
“Awareness? Longest working hours in Europe? Statutory limbo? Just a few reasons I’ve never tried. My loss”
“CCs have no cash, no role & no stat power. Nor will Comm Renewal & Empower Bill fix this. Why not?”
“locally, those who can have. Aging population. Not a huge number of younger ppl with time.”
“They have a place but need to be properly constituted and not turn into judge, jury and executioner”
“The Scot Gov promissed much on Community Councils, but have delivered naff all
“I joined mine to find out how things work & try to contribute. I found out how things work & was disappointed.”
“Average CC budget cc in Scotland is £400 which must be spent on stationery. Local democ with both hands tied”
“Totally right- they are Cooncil sponsored talking shops. Sometimes activists take over en bloc to try and change”
and the key to a successful Community Council? “a desire to fulfil the key role and consult with local community, rather than just what members themselves think.”
We would love to hear your views!