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Lo­cal­ity partnership meets just twice in the past year

The Arran Banner - - Front Page - Hugh Boag edi­tor@ar­ran­ban­

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’

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