Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Future Opportunities for Community Councils

The current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition UK government's 'big society' policy is just the latest version of what seems to be a constant ambition of governments of all political complexions in both UK and Scotland to encourage the voluntary sector to flourish. All parties these days recognise that governments, central or local, cannot alone solve the major issues of the day and that they need the cooperation of voluntary activity by citizens to have healthy and thriving local communities.

Scotland's community councils are run by the voluntary activity of thousands of citizens across the country and are elected within the framework of local government laws. They provide a framework across the country through which local people can voluntarily get involved in tackling the issues confronting their neighbourhoods by liaising with local authority councillors and MSPs to tackle such issues as crime, traffic, planning, litter and anti-social behaviour.

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2011 community councils will be available partners with the new government and local authorities to help tackle the constant flow of issues that need resolution in local communities. With the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties committed in England to the 'big society', with Labour having demonstrated interest in promoting local citizen involvement, with the current Scottish SNP administration demonstrating interest in the potential development of community councils, the signs are positive for further developing the partnership between local and central government and local communities through the channel of elected community councils.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Community councils and the weather emergency

Scotland's 1100 or so community councils constitute an important channel of two way communication between local authorities and local communities during the extended current weather emergency in Scotland.

Edinburgh City Council, is for instance, using email contacts with the city's community councillors to send information to local communities in the city about school closures, community centre opening arrangements, library opening hours, road and pavement clearing, and who to contact about help for vulnerable people.

Contacts between local community councillors and their elected local authority elected members and council officials are helping to make local difficulties and needs known and to shape local authority responses.

These are just some examples of how community councils are a valuable local resource for assisting local communities and local government to involve residents in dealing with the challenges and opportunities which they confront.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Edinburgh City Council's website improvement

Following representations from Norman Bonney, elected community council Edinburgh area representative on ASSC, and some other community councillors in the city, the new Edinburgh city council website entry for community councils is now much improved - providing some basic information and good links to other helpful sites.

Why, however, is the city council still reluctant to emphasise that community councils are established under local government legislation through a process of public nomination and election to be the voice of their communities to any organisation that affects its well being? They thus have a special standing distinct from other local community groups.

For a full account of the statutory basis of community councils visit
www.ascc.org.uk/documents/policy-and-best-practice  - what community councils are and are not

Monday, 4 October 2010

The status of community councils - open letter to the City of Edinburgh Council

Dear Council Officers and Members

I am writing to you about the entries on the new council website in relation to community councils in my capacity of Edinburgh area representative for the Association of Scottish Community Councils (elected from April 2010) and I am copying this to the chair and secretary of the Edinburgh Association of Community Councils.

1. The first page describes community councils as voluntary groups. This gives a mistaken account. A more accurate description of them would be local groups established by election under local government legislation to represent the views of their communities to local authorities and any other organisation or interest that affects the well being of their local area.

2. The next page rightly says that community councils have an important role in local democracy in representing the views of local people to neighbourhood partnerships and the local authority. But their remit is not confined to that - it is potentially much larger than that since they can take up any matter concerning the well being of their local area.

3. I cannot see any reference on the council website to the City council's scheme for community councils which governs their operation - this is an indispensible guide to community councils and those who would participate in them. If it is available on the website can you give me the webpage reference?

Council officers and elected members will find a considerable amount of useful information about community councils on the website of the Association of Scottish Community Councils (www.ascc.org.uk), to which your website makes a useful link, and I would refer you to the documents section and particularly 'What community councils are and what they are not'.

I am sure the city council would recognise the important role that community councils play in representing the voice of local communities in the city to the city council and other public and private agencies that affect the well being of their localities in an era of reductions in public services and it would certainly assist community councils in doing their work if a more accurate statement of their statutory basis and powers was to be found on the first and subsequent pages of the City Council website referring to community councils.

Norman Bonney
Edinburgh area representative Association of Scottish Community Councils

Saturday, 2 October 2010

New blog on ASCC constitutional issues

Readers may be aware of the increasing recent focus in this blog upon constitutional issues confronting the Association of Scottish Community Councils.

In order to redirect concern on this blog to other issues confronting Scotland's community councils in the current era of austerity a new blog has been created for the constitutional reform campaign. You can visit it at http://www.reformascc.blogspot.com/

Monday, 13 September 2010

2010 Proposed Amendments to the ASCC constitution

As a result of dissatisfaction with the way that the Association of Scottish Community Councils (ASCC) currently operates, some community councils in Edinburgh have decided to put forward amendments to the ASCC constitution. Under the constitution amendments to it have to be put forward by member community councils in the month of September for decision by member community councils by postal ballot in the following February.

Other community councils across Scotland supporting these amendments are urged to consider them at their meetings and submit them as official decisions of their community council to nationalsecretary@ascc.org.uk or frank@gunning.co.uk before the end of September 2010.

The proposed amendments seek to end the practice whereby national officers of ASCC are, in effect, elected by a handful of members of the Executive since only one nomination is put forward for each office for approval subsequently by the membership. More open nomination and election procedures should allow more candidates to come forward and guarantee more contests for these posts -thus making ASCC a more vigorous and more democratic organisation.

Similarly the amendments propose that election of the two Board members from each Scottish region should be by ballot of member community councils in the region and not by agreement among the ASCC local authority representatives in the region.

The amendments are as follows;

Election of Executive Council Members

That the words that ‘save the election to the Executive Council as described herein’ shall be omitted from clause 5c of the constitution and that the existing clause 5d be omitted to be replaced by the following new version;

5d. Two Executive council members for each region shall be elected from among the area representatives for the region by a postal ballot of all member community councils in the region every second year. Candidates will be validly nominated if they are proposed by any two community councils in the region. The elections will be organised by the National Secretary.

Executive Council and Area Representation
That the first sentence of Clause 5a should be amended to read;

The Association shall be managed by an Executive Council composed of 20 members consisting of the four elected national officers and 16 area representatives – the latter composed of two from of each region as detailed in Appendix 1 to this constitution.

Election of National Officers

That the existing clause 6a be omitted and replaced by the following;

6a. That there shall be national officer posts of national president, national secretary, national vice-president and national treasurer and these officers shall serve in the respective post for two years and they shall be members of the Executive council.

The first sentence of the existing Clause 6b ‘National Officers’ shall be omitted and replaced by the following;

Nominations for national officer posts shall be made by member community councils. Candidates must be nominated by at least two member community councils from different local authority areas.

As a result of pressure from myself and others the existing constitution is now readily available to member community councils on the ASCC website in the documents section. You will also find other valuable information at www.ascc.org.uk

Sunday, 22 August 2010

How well is the new planning system working?

The Scottish government is reviewing the way in which the new planning system is working including the new arrangements for pre-application consultations.

If you or your community council has views on this issue please convey them to the Association of Scottish Community Councils via nationalsecretary@ascc.org.uk by 16 September 2010.