Dumfries and Galloway Council places a very high importance on improving participation and engagement – its Council Plan, agreed in 2017, has as one of its five Priorities ‘Be an inclusive Council’ and its Strategy and Good Practice Guidance were developed with stakeholders over the following year. The Council was named as ‘UK Council of the Year’ in 2019’ for its commitment to training by tCI Connect (The Consultation Institute).
As part of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s ongoing commitment to support Community Councils a series of free online training sessions on ‘the importance of effective and meaningful community engagement’ were arranged.
Dumfries and Galloway Council designed the programme in partnership with the Consultation Institute. It highlighted the statutory role of Community Councils and provided them with a greater understanding of their role as a consultee and a consultor which would give Community Councils more confidence in designing, delivering and responding to consultations at local level.
The programme included a course introduction and overview session which allowed participants the opportunity to ask questions and sign up for the following two sessions, which culminated in a feedback and Q&A session.
A total of 50 Community Councillors from across Dumfries and Galloway attended 5 sessions, which were split between afternoon and evening sessions and lasted for up to two hours. Every participant had the opportunity to interact in discussion and to look at methods of engagement, including use of the engagement tool, Mentimeter, many for the first time.
27 attendees submitted feedback online and were unanimous in recording that the sessions were very useful and raised awareness of their role in the consultation process; and the introduction to useful tools such as Mentimeter, the Consultation Mandate and use of Microsoft Tools were all received positively.
Main areas of concern focussed on the need for further training in their role as a Community Councillor and specifically for support in the use of IT and online tools to support consultation.
Dumfries and Galloway Council offers support to Community Councils that includes induction training for new Community Councillors and Office Bearers and are working with the Scottish Tech Army to develop a bespoke training programme designed at getting more Community Councils online. Free online Open University courses are also promoted and there’s relevant and updated information via the Community Council webpage as well as through a dedicated Community Council Enquiry Service (CCES).
Councillor Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Communities Committee said: ‘Our Council recognises the importance of best practice in consultation and engagement at all levels of government. Embedding good practice and building the confidence and competencies of our Community Councils will have a big effect because we have almost 90 of them across our region and are a key partner’.
Councillor John Martin, Vice Chair of the Communities Committee said: ‘The recent online training was designed to support Community Councils to deliver local consultations as well as how to respond to consultations. This will enhance the reputation and effectiveness of Community Councils as listening and engaging organisations in their local communities’.
The local authority also publishes a regular newsletter dedicated to its community councils which provides up to date information and guidance. It also highlights the good work of community councils in the area as well as signposting them to training and funding opportunities. The newsletter is available on the community councils section of Dumfries and Galloway Council's website.