A Blueprint for Scottish Local Government which sets out an ambitious vision for Scotland’s future based on the empowerment of people and communities has been launched recently by Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
The blueprint states: “To put it simply – decisions should be made from the community up, not from the top down.”
The document will be of particular interest to Community Councils as it covers six key themes of Strengthening Local Democracy, Funding Services and Communities, Wellbeing – including Health and Social Care, Education and Children and Young People, Economy and the Environment and Supporting Vulnerable Communities.
On the topic of Strengthening Local Democracy the COSLA blueprint calls for an empowered local Government with powers to raise and set taxes and to make decisions based on the priorities and needs of local people. It states that decisions should be taken as close to communities as possible and that all communities should be able to participate in the decision-making process that affects their lives and their communities.
In terms of funding services and communities the COSLA blueprint calls for fair funding for local Government as well as a fiscal framework, longer-term certainty in relation to budgets, a removal of a cap on Council Tax so that it’s a truly local tax and more powers for discretionary taxation.
The blueprint also recognises that local Government has worked with diverse communities and local partners, including in the third sector, to provide emergency food, medicine and financial and wellbeing support throughout the pandemic. It calls for action to build on the strengths and assets of Scotland’s diverse communities, maximising the capabilities already available in local places and strengthening local leadership and participatory democracy.
There are also calls for good quality homes for everyone in Scotland, sustainable places to live within connected communities, a social safety net below which no one should fall and routes to good quality, sustainable employment. The blueprint also seeks for a concerted effort to empower the most marginalised groups and those at risk of being excluded or left behind and to address the gendered effects of the pandemic.
Speaking at the recent launch of the document Councillor Graham Houston COSLA’s Vice-President said: “The Blueprint provides a narrative around the kind of country we want, and about the changes that could make a real difference to communities across the country.
“Covid-19 has changed the way we live. But pre-Covid, through Covid and after Covid local government is the anchor for communities in need. For children, young people and families; for local businesses; and for services that benefit our physical and emotional well-being and the environment. We work with communities and local organisations every day to bring about change and to make the voices of people heard and matter.”
Councillor Houston continued: “The value of local government can be seen in our response to Covid-19, where councils have taken decisive action to support communities, people, and businesses.
“Whether delivering food or medicine, providing shelter for the homeless, supporting volunteers or keeping many essential services running, local government has been the face of the response for many.
“The local government workforce, which is the largest in Scotland, has fundamentally changed the way it works to reduce the disruption caused to everyday life.
“Scottish local government must be further empowered to bring about the change we now need.
“The financial impacts of Covid-19 have been severe and have placed extreme pressure on already strained council budgets and on our workforce. Without proper resourcing we will see reductions in spending and inevitable cuts to services, furthering the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic and putting at risk the very recovery we seek.”
Councillor Houston concluded: “Local Government, and the communities we serve, have shown the innovation and creative thinking needed to respond to this unprecedented pandemic and to adapt to a new way of life.
“We have proved our worth, we will continue to deliver and our Blueprint is the menu for change that Local Government now requires.”
Community Councils can read the COSLA Blueprint for Scottish Local Government in full by downloading it from COSLA’s website