Cambuslang Community Council and Halfway Community Council have jointly produced a report on improving community empowerment in South Lanarkshire. The relationship between Community Councils and South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) is increasingly important because of legislative changes and new rights on local community empowerment and participation in decision-making. The new report reviews the current ‘health’ of Community Councils (CCs) in South Lanarkshire and their experience of working with SLC.
At present, there are fundamental problems with the representation of communities in South Lanarkshire. Only 34 areas out of a possible 57 currently have a Community Council, and many CCs have difficulties in attracting sufficient members. A survey of all CCs in South Lanarkshire found that the effectiveness of CCs is constrained by insufficient financial resources and members, and shortfalls in expertise or time to implement projects and deal with local concerns.
Importantly, SLC does not appear to have a strategy for Community Councils. They are not included in the main planning documents, and they are not accorded any special role in the design and delivery of local plans and services. Also, SLC provides much less financial support through Administration Grant to CCs in South Lanarkshire than many other local authorities in Scotland.
The survey found that the experience of CCs in working with SLC is mixed. Many report positive experiences, and there are numerous examples of good practice. There are also many examples of bad experiences and poor practice. There appear to be significant differences across SLC departments in their engagement with CCs, with respect to openness, communication, and support.
Based on the research, Cambuslang Community Council and Halfway Community Council recommend that SLC:
- develops a policy on its future engagement with CCs, and a strategy for mobilising local involvement in CCs;
- promotes a culture of CC engagement, introduces a Code of Practice for all SLC departments on working with CCs, requires CC engagement to be included in all Committee papers, encourages SLC Councillors to attend CC meetings regularly, and enables CCs to participate in Community Planning;
- sets up a working group with representatives of CCs to identify practical ways of improving the participation of CCs in planning matters;
- invests in capacity-building for CCs, including training, online resources, an annual CC forum and a single point of contact for liaison with SLC departments; and
- consults with CCs to co-determine a new system of financial support that reflects their current and future financial needs.
A copy of the report is available here.