Community Councils

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What is a Community Council?

  • What is a Community Council?

    A Community Councils is a  voluntary organisation set up by statute by the Local Authority and run by local residents to act on behalf of their area. As the most local tier of elected representation, Community Councils play an important role in local democracy.

     

    Community Councils are comprised of people who care about their community and want to make it a better place to live. They are people who have the time to give something back.

     

    As well as representing the community to the local authority, Community Councils facilitate a wide range of activities which promote the well-being of their communities. They bring local people together to help make things happen, and many Community Councils protect and promote the identity of their community. They advise, petition, influence and advocate numerous causes and cases of concern on behalf of local communities.  Here are some examples of their work from across the country:

     

    • Carry out projects to enhance their community for all types of citizens – elderly, single mothers, minority groups, youths etc.
    • Issue community newsletters
    • Conduct local surveys
    • Campaign on local issues
    • Organise community events (such as local galas)

     

    Community Councils are the strongest means of becoming involved with your local area. It will give you a good understand of the workings of local government and what is going on locally and nationally. All local authorities in Scotland encourage citizens to become a member of their Community Council.

  • Being a Community Councillor

    Being a committee member means you have shared responsibility for the success of the Community Council, even if you are not an office bearer. You must commit to the role and uphold the standards and values of the Community Council. All members should contribute to discussions and decisions concerning the work of the Community Council.

  • What are the roles in a Community Council?

    There are various ways in which you can play your part in your Community Council.  Each community council must have a Chairperson, a Treasurer and a Secretary – the office bearers – and these roles carry the most responsibility.   The office bearers, as elected members representing their local communities are responsible for the efficient and effective operation of the community council.

    This doesn’t mean to say that the office bearers must do all the work, but they are responsible for making sure that everything is done according to the Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils.

    All members of the community council are equally responsible for the community council’s decisions and actions and may take on additional activities in support of the community council.

     

    The office bearers’ roles are described below, followed by an outline of other potential roles within a Community Council.

     

    Chairperson

    The chairperson can make a massive difference to the success of a community council. Meetings are key to the Community Council making decisions on what its priorities are and what work it has to do.  The chairperson is responsible for ensuring that discussions are productive and run on-time, and that clear action points are set.

     

    Treasurer

    The Treasurer is responsible for handling the community council’s finances.  It is his or her responsibility to ensure that the finances are kept healthy and the community council does not get into debt. The Treasurer must oversee all financial administration and transactions of the community council, and make decisions regarding these.

     

    Being a Secretary

    The Secretary ensures the smooth running of the community council by organising meetings, setting the agenda and keeping minutes and records.ᅠSecretaries also ensure effective communication between committee members.

     

    Other roles

    Community councils might want to consider if there is a need to create a specific role in response to an area/project that needs a lot of attention. For example, the committee may wish to create the post of Engagement Officer where there is a need to reach out to a specific group that is under-represented in the community council (e.g. young people, ethnic minorities or disabled people).  Other roles that might be created to support the work of the community council, depending on its circumstances are:

     

    • Publicity Officer
    • Fundraising Officer
    • Assets Management Officer
    • Communications Officer
    • Events Officer

     

    Your involvement

    You don’t have to take on a specific role to be involved in your community council.  All members play an important part by thinking creatively about what you can do together to improve the lives of local citizens.  If you do take on a role, then you don’t need to feel restricted to only doing this – the main role of the committee is to support each other and work together to make things happen.

  • The Community Council Framework

    Community Councils must represent all people in the area without prejudice. Therefore they should:

     

    • Be non-party political and non-sectarian.
    • Represent a full cross-section of the community and encourage the involvement of people regardless of gender, race, age, disability, nationality or sexual orientation.

     

    Community Councils act as a voice for their local area. Their specific role can vary according to their local area’s needs. Their size, in terms of area and population, differs across the country.ᅠ In some areas there are Federations of Community Councils, allowing them to work together over larger areas.

     

    They must ascertain and express the views of the community to local authorities and other public bodies, and to take action which appears to be in the interests of its community. They can complement the role of the local authority but are not part of local government. They should have a positive working partnership with the local authority - therefore they must be informed on the council’s policies, and keep the council updated on their activities.

     

    To effectively represent their community they must be proactive in consulting andᅠengaging with local residents.

  • Consultation on planning

    • Planning

      This page contains guidance on the formal part of community council’s responsibility in relation to planning applications. The texts are based on the following legislation and directives:

       

       

      Community Councils’ role in planning

      Community councils have a statutory right to be consulted on applications for planning permission and the community council has a special role, representing a broader yet still local view which can be set alongside the comments of those with a more individual interest.

       

      Planning authorities also receive comments and objections on planning applications from statutory consultees like Scottish Natural Heritage or Historic Environment Scotland, from neighbours who are given special notification, and from a wide range of interested parties.

       

      Authorities are obliged by law to decide planning applications in accordance with the development plan for the area (that is, where applicable, the approved strategic development plan and the adopted local development plan or local plan, taken together) unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Coming to a reasoned judgement on these matters lies at the heart of the planning authority’s' discretionary power to approve, refuse or modify applications under the law and within a framework of national policy guidance. The community council's key task is helping to provide an informed local context within which appropriate decisions can be made in the public interest.

    • Planning authority and community council responsibilities

      Community councils are as individual as the areas they cover, so their approach to consultations and their capacity for response will vary a good deal. Each planning authority should therefore make a point of gaining a good working knowledge of the community councils in its area. Its liaison procedures should acknowledge local variations and be tailored to the characteristics of the community councils and local areas involved. Careful soundings and discussion in advance will help authorities to devise effective consultative arrangements with which those involved can feel comfortable. They may need to differ from one part of an authority's area to another. Occasional meetings between local authorities and community councils are recommended to keep these arrangements under review.

       

      If community councils are to find, co-ordinate and express the views of the local community, both the community in general and the community council itself will need to have ready access to information on applications and development plans. It is therefore essential that planning authorities make this information available easily and promptly.

       

      Each community council should appoint one person as their point of contact for the planning authority on all planning matters, provide holiday cover, and inform the authority accordingly. A useful way of securing that no information is lost during absence could be to set up a generic email account which can be accessed by other office bearers in the community council. Internal arrangements for considering applications will be for each community council to decide. A regular contact person in the authority's planning service should also be clearly identified for each community council. This will usually be the case officer for the area concerned.

    • Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) process

      The objective of PAC is for communities to be better informed about major and national development proposals and to have an opportunity to contribute their views before a formal planning application is submitted to the planning authority. This helps to: improve the quality of planning applications; mitigate negative impacts where possible; address misunderstandings; and to air and to address where practicable any community issues.

       

      The prospective applicant must consult every community council any part of whose area is within or adjoins the land on which the proposed development is situated. This may include community councils in a neighbouring planning authority. The prospective applicant must also serve on these community councils the proposal of application notice.

       

      Planning authorities are expected to develop and maintain up to date lists of bodies and interests with whom prospective applicants should consult in particular types of case. They should draw from those resources as appropriate to the particular proposal and its potential impacts.

       

      Prospective applicants should have meaningful and proportionate engagement with those who represent the views of potentially affected communities, guided by PAN 3/2010: 'Community Engagement', the National Standards for Community Engagement or other locally agreed or adapted framework or set of principles.

       

      After PAC, and once a planning application has been submitted to the planning authority, communities should ensure that any representations they wish to make on the proposal are submitted to that authority as part of the process of considering the planning application.

       

      For more detailed information about the PAC process please go to: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/12/9882/0

    • Weekly lists

      Article 23 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 requires that community councils be sent a weekly list of all planning applications as a matter of course. Although the content of weekly lists may vary, and some authorities may prepare separate lists for parts of their area, each list is required to contain at least: the date of receipt of the application; its reference number; the site location: a description of the proposed development; and the name and address of the applicant or agent. As a matter of good practice, the weekly list should also explain the arrangements for obtaining details of a particular application, indicate the likely latest date for comments under these arrangements, and where possible give the name of the planning officer dealing with each case.

    • Approaches to consultation

      After studying the weekly list, community councils may wish to view particular applications in detail. Schedule 5, part 6 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 allows community councils to request formal consultation within 7 working days of the issuing date of the weekly list. The Development Management Procedure also allows for details of selected applications to be sent automatically, either where the application falls within a class of case or an area previously agreed between the community council and the authority, or where the authority considers that the application may affect local amenity. Under such arrangements the weekly list could be accompanied (or even preceded) by details of some applications, thus saving the community council from having to take the initiative to call for details of cases they are interested in and making it easier to comment in good time. Not all community councils may seek to be formally consulted; the ability to view locally, or borrow details on request after receipt of the weekly list, and then to submit comments like any other member of the public, may be all that is required. In all cases, community councils are advised to limit their attention to proposals which raise issues of genuine community interest: householder applications will rarely involve issues of this kind.

       

      Community councils should not expect to be consulted on very minor changes which are sometimes made to applications either while they are being considered or after they have been approved. These 'non-material' amendments and variations carry no statutory provision for consultation. But where an application is to be amended in any material or substantial way, it will normally be submitted afresh and a new opportunity for consultation will arise.

    • Timescale for consultation

      It is important that consultation does not cause delay in the processing of planning applications. Community councils should therefore ensure that their method of working allows them to respond within the consultation period. The right for community councils to be consulted on applications is simply an extension of the right currently available to other consultees and no special arrangements are in place.

       

      Article 25(3) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 states that where a community council is being consulted, it must be given 14 days to make its comments on an application. The 14 days begins on the issuing date of details of the application. It will be for planning authorities and individual community councils to consider the most appropriate way of disseminating this information, which may be electronically. Where postage is used, authorities should as a matter of good practice allow some extra time based on their knowledge of the service in their area. 2 days should be sufficient extra time in most areas, with a maximum of 4 days in remote and island areas. The period allowed for comments should be clearly explained in the weekly list and shown on any additional details supplied.

       

      Most cases should be handled within the timescale set out here. But the 14 day period is a minimum and it is open to a community council, like any other statutory consultee, to ask the authority to use its discretion to allow a reasonable extension in special cases: for example those which are unusually complex or controversial.

    • Discussions on applications

      In some cases community councils may find it helpful to discuss applications with the planning authority. Authorities should respond constructively to requests for more information or discussion of particular proposals. Discussions on the planning merits of cases between applicants and community councils after a planning application has been submitted are strongly discouraged. It is for the planning authority to discuss issues with various parties if they think it necessary before coming to a decision.

    • Training

      As part of their commitment to the effective and efficient operation of the consultation arrangements, planning authorities should consider occasional training sessions for community councillors in their areas. This will help councils to make informed comments and gain a better understanding of how the planning system works. PAS (www.pas.org.uk) may also be able to help with training. The main approach to training should be informal, building up local understanding through the actual experience of consultation and the development of good working relationships.

    • Community Council action checklist

      • discuss consultation arrangements with authority
      • select contact point within community council
      • have a generic contact email with shared access
      • agree contact point in the planning authority
      • arrange for access to application documents
      • arrange working to ensure comments on time
      • ask what support and training you can get from the local authority
    • Planning Authority action checklist

      • contact all the community councils in the area
      • agree consultation arrangements with each one
      • supply background information (development plans, etc)
      • agree main contact point in the planning authority
      • arrange easy access to application information
      • consider arrangements for local training
  • Community Engagement

    sharing ideas in community engagement imageEvery member of your community can be a valuable member of society with something to contribute. Community Councils should attempt to engage with a wide range of people to create a large diversity of perspectives and insights which can help the Community Council to achieve more. Engaging community members in making decisions is also likely to make them more pro-active about their community’s needs.


    Community engagement is about building open and honest relationships between citizens and the Community Councils, based on mutual trust.


    Engagement can range from providing information about current work or projects, to consulting on particular issues, to full empowerment whereby the community has decision-making powers. Some of the engagement needs to be ongoing and some of it might be short-term or one-off events.

     

    Community Councils, by law, must be non-discriminatory. They should be welcoming, open and non-judgmental toward all citizens, including youths and individuals from hard to reach or minority groups. Nobody should be blocked from Community Council activities.

     

    Engaging with a wide range of citizens will make the Community Council a better representative of the community and make both other local communities and the local authorities more likely to work with and listen to the Community Council. Community Councils should also try to engage with citizens even if they are not eligible to become an official member of the Community Council (e.g. children).

     

    There is not one correct way for a Community Council to engage with its citizens and what works for one part of the community might not reach other members of the local area. As representative voices for their communities, it is important that Community Councils do not just share information, but also gather the views of local citizens.

     

    To make sure that the Community Council engages with as many as possible, it can be useful to consider combining or using many different approaches. In some cases it can be useful to meet face to face at meetings and events, other times information posters and flyers in public places might be the right approach and in many cases it is worth considering using digital resources such as surveys or social media to reach an even larger or maybe a new audience. Many minority groups will also often have an online presence which makes them easier to approach.

     

    On this page we have links to basic advice for some of the most common ways to engage your communities. There will usually be a link to more detailed information on other sites. As with all kind of communication, there is no right way of doing it, and you might have to try a lot of different methods to find out what works best in your area.

  • Digital Engagement

    • Digital Engagement

      digital enagement imageThe wide access to internet has helped many Community Councils create new ways to engage with people. Community Councils can now keep in touch with members of the community through email, newsletters, websites, and social media. These methods of digital engagement are easy to use, and most of it is free or very low cost compared to other forms of engagement. It can take some time to build an audience for a newsletter or a social media account, but the time invested compared to possible reach is often very low compared to other forms of engagement. For spreading information, it is more flexible and cheaper than print media but it should not just replace traditional engagement methods. Different channels work well with different audiences.

    • Social Media

      social media icons imageSocial media can bring many great benefits and provide means to share information easily. Because most people use social networks once in a while and a lot use them every day, they are an excellent way of reaching a large audience. Community councils should be sharing stories and reports about the work they carry out: this will encourage others to become involved and it is important that the wider community is aware of the work of their community councils.

       

      Here are some of the top advantages of using social media:

       

      • It allows the community council to engage with a large number and wide range of people, including those who may not be aware of or able to attend meetings or events, such as people with disabilities, single mothers and shift workers. It is especially good for reaching young people, whose voices are often under-represented in community councils.

       

      • It allows members of the community to interact with the community council; they can give views on what is important to them and provide feedback on work and projects, at a time and place convenient to them.

       

      • Many people and groups already use social media to discuss local issues – tapping into these conversations will help community councils to understand and engage with local issues.

       

      • It allows community councils to access a large amount of information that may be of interest to them, such as funding opportunities. Connecting with other local groups can create a quick and easy way to share resources.

       

      If you do not already have a community council email address, it is a good idea to create one. This can then be used to set up some social media sites (instead of a community councillor’s personal email address). This means that when community council committee members change, the password can be handed over and the site/emails will retain continuity. There are some sites, where it is necessary to use personal accounts to set up a page or group, but it doesn’t mean you have to share access to your personal pages.

    • Social Media Tools

      social media icons imageBelow is information on two of the most popular social media platforms –ᅠFacebook andᅠTwitterᅠ– but there is a whole range of other tools such asᅠInstagram,ᅠFlickr, Vimeo,ᅠYouTube,ᅠLinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter allow you to share links to these other social media sites and web resources. It is worth thinking creatively about how you could best reach your community through sharing on several networks. It can be a bit daunting thinking about managing several accounts, but to make this easier, there are free social media management tools that you can use such as Hootsuite or Buffer which you can use on your PC or smartphone. These can also give you some insight into how often people read or share your content.

       

      Facebook

      www.facebook.com

       

      How it works

      Facebook profiles can be created for individuals, groups, businesses, or to promote a cause. Facebook allows you to upload photos and videos, send messages, create events, and share ‘statuses’, which operate like microblogging.

       

      Useful guide

      'Beginners Guide to Facebook' - basic guide from social media site Mashable. This is an easy to follow step-by-step guide to the main aspects of Facebook.

       

      'What is the difference between a page and a group?' - Help to decide whether a group or page might be best for your Community Council

       

      Twitter

      www.twitter.com

       

      How it works

      Twitter allows you to post short messages, pictures, and videos, called ‘tweets’, which registered users can see. The shortness of the messages is known as ‘microblogging’. It is a great way of keeping people up-to-date on your work, as well as learning about what others are doing.

       

      Useful guide

      'Getting started with Twitter' - Twitter's own guide

       

      'Twitter for beginners' - a basic Twitter guide from social media site, Mashable

       

      Wordpress and other blogging sites

      www.wordpress.com

       

      How it works

      Blogging is a great way to share information about the work of your community council as you can write longer content than on for example Twitter (Twitter can however be a good way to share the link to your blog). Wordpress can also be used a website.

       

      Useful guide

      Wordpress tutorial: a guide to Wordpress for beginners' - This guides explains the basic in setting up any blog and focuses especially on setting a blog up with Wordpress.