Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Community Councils "a brave last stand for local democracy or a wasted effort"

A few years ago one of the usual suspects sent us a copy of the Scottish Community Alliance's newsletter and a very interesting read it was too. This observer subscribed and subsequent issues have been full of stories of communities moving forward and getting things done. We don't seem to be so lucky here, through one form or another we seem to hire consultants on a regular basis, get a list of assets and things that need doing (sometimes complete with a very nice map or two) and then nothing happens. However, there are great hopes that Michael Green and the business community's BID will brake the cycle but that remains to be seen. 

Anyway the Scottish Community Alliance has also been following developments on the localism front at Holyrood and they haven't been shy in pointing out some of the dangers they see looming up. Here's the headline paragraph from their latest newsletter:

"Dear Reader,

Opinion is divided over Scotland’s 1200 community councils – a brave last stand for local democracy or a wasted effort on the part of thousands of local people? Back in 1973, when local government was being restructured into much larger, more centralised blocks of administration, setting up community councils was a sop to those who cried foul at the dismantling of local democracy. And twenty years later, when local government stepped even further away from its roots after yet more ‘reorganisation’, community councils, invested with neither resources nor responsibilities, were left to wither on the vine. Except they didn’t wither. Despite decades of official neglect, thousands of local people have stayed committed to this most local tier of democracy. While the new community empowerment legislation studiously avoided any serious mention of community councils, the next two pieces of legislation lined up by Scottish Government – a new Planning Bill and a Decentralisation Bill – would be scarcely credible if they were to follow suit. This moment has been a long time coming and whatever the outcome, we can be assured there will be as many again it as for it. One thing is certain though, it’s make or break time for community councils.

best wishes

It probably is finally make or break time here in Nairn folks. Many of the usual suspects are growing tired of the cycle of nothing ever happening after initiatives to try and get our community more say. Michael Green is calling for Community Councils to be given more say on the new District Partnership but reporting in the Nairnshire this week indicates that it is not even known yet if the new body's meetings will be open to the public.

Are we finally heading to the new dawn or another generation of the crushing boot from Glenurquhart Road? Remember it emerged at a recent local CC meeting that it will be Inverness that will be setting the 50p (?) charge for the use of the public cludgie and local members will be powerless to do anything about it.

More and more people await the outcome of the potential of local democracy returning to Nairn with weariness and increasing disinterest unfortunately. The Highland Council elections are coming round in May so you might see our four local members in the shop window a bit more soon but things will have to get slightly more exciting and they need to generate an air of hope if the turnout next spring is to be more than the whopping 48% it was last time round. 

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