You’re not listening to us
Locality partnership meets just twice in the past year
The chairman of Arran Community Council has sharply criticised the new community engagement structure at North Ayrshire Council, which he has described as ‘dysfunctional’ and unrepresentative.
The influential Bill Calderwood made his hard-hitting views in his review of the past year at the Arran Community Council annual general meeting last week.
NAC has set up six locality partnerships, including one for Arran, under the government-backed Community Planning Partnership structure which, they say, gives local groups the ‘empowerment’ to take more control over the decisions that affect their community.
But Mr Calderwood said that, despite their statutory status, the work of the community council was being ‘sidelined and demeaned’ by the continued determination of the council not to address the obvious disparity in the operation of the two bodies.
At the meeting, Mr Calderwood told members: ‘One area of frustration which many of the members and residents have voiced and has not been resolved centres around the relationship and roles between the community council and the NAC locality partnership structure which we have representation to.
‘The community council has had 10 meetings since our last AGM and the process which NAC introduced as its view of “community engagement”, locality planning has only met twice, with the first taking place a couple of weeks after our AGM last November and the latest being a few weeks ago.
‘We have no direct input into the Community Planning Partnership structure
but the “locality” feeds directly in. We have no direct fiscal responsibility but the LPP is the forum for all public funding decisions and will administer the community investment fund for Arran which stands at £104,000.
‘We get minimal funding and our request for secretarial resources was refused this year whilst the locality partnership have dedicated resources and a significant amount of NAC officer time and resources allocated.
‘The partnership agendas are prepared in exclusion to the other members. There is no consultation with community representatives prior to the meeting and any funding applications are notified to the partnership with NAC’s recommendations predetermined. It is a top down authoritative driven structure – not the ground up representative forum our communities expected,’ Mr Calderwood stated.
‘At this time, when there is an emphasis on democracy matters, the question is still unanswered as to what role the community councils fulfil as a statutory body? This is a topic which we need to consider again based on a response received in reply to a letter to the cabinet secretary for communities and local government Aileen Campbell: “As statutory responsibility for community councils rests with the relevant local authority it is for North Ayrshire Council to take forward any concerns regarding community councils on Arran. There are no current plans to change these statutory responsibilities.”
‘If we are to fulfil the service which our community expects the current dysfunctional “locality” approach needs to change or our efforts are side lined and demeaned by the continued determination of the local authority not to address the obvious disparity in the operation of the two bodies and accept that, as identified by the recently introduced Islands Bill, island communities have the right to a democratic and functionally representative process. They also should reconsider the future of community councils as the statutory body who handle a wide range of topics, many based on financial constraints implemented by NAC as above, with the performance against their perceived preferred format of locality partnership which has been empowered to distribute funds and does not demonstrate any level of community involvement in agenda setting, meeting format or inclusive dialogue with community councils or other community groups.
‘Unfortunately, as we weren’t directly included in the recent transport workshop – which was identified as one of the three top priorities from the locality partnership discussion last year – this was frustrating given the history of the CC’s work which we have supported.’
However, Mr Calderwood added: ‘I want to conclude with a positive outlook as we enter into more planning challenges, forestry proposals and discussions for further improvements to roads and island infrastructure going into 2019 and recognise the work we have achieved and pass on a big thank you to all members and hope that our communities continue to view our work in a positive and informed manner.’
‘The current dysfunctional “locality” approach needs to change’