Alastair Majury on Dunblane Community Council Consultation Letter
I am pleased that the Stirling Observer printed my ‘Letter to the Editor’ about the Dunblane Community Council.
Prior to this course of action, we have seen multiple other people write to the Stirling Observer highlighting the Dunblane Community Council’s lack of consultation with the wider community, and many more people have spoken to me privately about the same issue.
My understanding is that the Dunblane Community Council current consultative approach has been primarily:
That they use their members to establish general community views on most matters, using their networks (physical and virtual), as appropriate, as well as considering the evidence presented and otherwise available, on specific issues, taking a reasonable and proportionate approach.
However the Scheme of Establishment, that all of Dunblane Community Council signed up to states. (Full copy here)
The Role and Responsibilities of Community Councils The general purpose of Community Councils is to act as a voice for their local area. This will involve them articulating the views and concerns of local people in their area on a wide range of issues of public concern and making representations to their local authority, other public sector bodies and private agencies on matters within their sphere of interest.
It is essential that these views be demonstrated to be accurately representative of the community. Accordingly, the Community Council will have in place, in consultation with the Council and other key stakeholders/partners, recognised consultative mechanisms to validate their views and devise strategies to secure greater involvement by all sectors of the community. Community Councils have a statutory right to be consulted on planning applications.
Licensing matters and any other matters may also be jointly agreed between Community Councils, the Council and other public sector and private agencies.
Further more the statutory purposes of the Community Councils established under the Scheme are set out in Section 51 (2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, is as follows: -
‘’In addition to any other purpose which a Community Council may pursue, the general purpose of a Community Council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable’’
So legally the Community Council their purpose is to ‘ascertain, co-ordinate and express’ ‘the views of the community which it represents’. Under what they signed up to they are required to use “recognised consultative mechanisms to validate their views and devise strategies to secure greater involvement by all sectors of the community” as “It is essential that these views be demonstrated to be accurately representative of the community”.
Although this is a new Community Council many of their members were on the previous Community Council accordingly examples from previous sessions I believe also apply. Unfortunately we have seen that simply using their network as opposed to actually using recognised consultative mechanisms has led to the Community Council representing the community’s view as one thing, whilst it was likely that wasn’t our majority view.
For example the proposals to make the Streetscape around the Cathedral and Braeport similar to what is around the train station was ‘Community Led’. The consultation facilitated by Stirling Council and funded by SUSTRANS, saw a majority reject these ‘Community Led’ proposals.
This rejection was rejected by our community representatives and we were asked to vote again on slightly different ‘Community Led’ proposals, the community again rejected these proposals (apart from improving Bishops Walk and extending 20mph to be past the library). At the Steering Group meeting to discuss the then Community Council Chairman wanted to ignore the majority view of the community and press ahead with these proposals anyway.
The Community Council has failed to consult the wider community on the design for the North Parapet both with respect to the gesture of goodwill for Smooth Concrete design, and the choice between Smooth Concrete or Brick. The Community Council has failed to consult the wider community on how £106,000 should have been spent on the Laighhills.
Also the Scheme of Establishment states:
Service to the Community As a Community Councillor you have a duty to act in the interests of the local community, which you have been elected or nominated to represent. You also have a duty to act in accordance with the remit of the Council’s Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils, as set out by Stirling Council (“the Council”) under the terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973.
You have a duty to establish and reflect, through the Community Council, the views of the community as a whole, on any issue, irrespective of personal opinion.
You should ensure that you are, within reason, accessible to your local community and local residents. Various mechanisms to allow the general community to express their views, i.e. suggestion boxes, community surveys, opinion polls should, where possible, be made available
Other Community Councils such as the Bridge of Allan Community Council does use recognised consultative mechanisms such as surveys, there is no reason why the Dunblane Community Council can’t do likewise, in fact they are required to do so per the Scheme of Establishment.
Do you think that the Dunblane Community Council has been operating in compliance with the Scheme of Establishment?
I am sure that the Stirling Observer would be interested to hear your thoughts — email@example.com
Also the Chief Governance Officer — firstname.lastname@example.org