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Roles and responsibilities of community councils

Roles and responsibilities of community councils


What I’m going to cover today is an overview
of the Community Council Scheme and I’m also going to explore the role and the remit of
Community Council and its members and provide an awareness of the legislation and background
to Community Councils. I’ve tried to sort of include useful bits of information that
will help you as Community Council members. Community Councils were established under
the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act placed
a duty on each Local Authority to develop a scheme for Community Councils. The first
Community Councils in Edinburgh appeared in 1980 and that was in Merchiston and Longstone,
and we have provision for 46 areas for Community Councils and we are well on our way to achieving
full coverage. I have here a slide which is a quote from
the Community Councils Scheme and the quote describes the main purpose of a Community
Council and as you’ll see the main purpose of a Community Council is to seek the views
of the community and to put forward those views to a wide range of people. Back to the
Scheme for Community Councils, the Scheme is a very important document because it sets
out the framework for Community Councils and it covers a whole range of different aspects.
It covers provisions for membership, procedures for meetings, elections and finance and at
the end of the Scheme for Community Councils there is a Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct
is a very useful document. It protects Community Council Members and it maintains the integrity
of the Community Council. I have put a list of the key aspects of the Scheme and I can
quickly run through what that means. Service to the Community is about working for the
benefit of the community and trying to make sure that you represent everybody’s views
and not just personal views. Members must declare private interests. If
there is a matter that comes up at Community Council meeting and a Community Council member
has a personal or a private interest, they must declare that interest and then the Community
Council would decide whether it was appropriate for the member to continue to take part in
the discussion and the decision-making arrangements. You have to beware of gifts and hospitality.
They could be used to try and influence your judgement. I think most people know that Community
Councils are non party political and Community Council members shouldn’t allow their political
views to influence the work of the Community Council. Equality of Opportunity is essential.
That basically means that you should try and ensure that all sections of the community
are involved in the work of the Community Council and there is a variety of ways that
you can do that. You can try and make sure that your meetings are held in accessible
buildings, you can put on agendas that the meetings are open to all members of the public,
try and make sure that you publicise your meetings as widely as possible, tackle any
forms of discrimination and the final point under the Code of Conduct is respect and general
conduct. Obviously it’s important to respect the other members of the Community Council
and not to get involved in personal attacks or make personal comments, and work together
as a team. That’s what really makes a Community Council successful is when you have a group
of people that are working together for the benefit of the community. How do Community
Council’s operate? I have mentioned the Scheme and there is also two other documents, the
Constitution and Standing Orders. All of these documents are available on the Council website
and there is a copy of the Scheme in your induction packs. The Constitution and Standing
Orders are based on the Community Council Scheme but they provide a bit more information
about meeting procedures. Meetings — Community Councils are required to hold a minimum of
6 ordinary meetings and 1 AGM a year. Most Community Councils hold their meetings every
month and they have a break in summer but it is really up to your own Community Council
to decide the frequency arrangements. The quorum of a Community Council is a third of the current voting membership or
3 voting members whichever is the greater. And funding for Community Councils — Community
Councils receive a grant which is about £750 and that’s for operational costs, for things
like stationery, postage, advertising, affiliations. Membership of Community Council is divided
into four different kinds of members. You have elected members — that’s members who
are on the electoral roll for the Community Council area. Nominated members are members
of local interest groups and must be voluntary groups with a constitution, and an example
of that would be a Tenants Association, a community group, an amenities society, environmental
group, friends of parks — we have a whole range of groups and they make a very good
contribution to the Community Council. We also have Ex-officio members which are Councillors,
MPs, MEPs, MSPs and Associate members who can provide expertise to the Community Council.
It might be on something like planning or it might be IT or environmental issues but
the key thing to note about Ex-officio members and Associate members is that they don’t have
any voting rights and they cannot hold office. There are also the office bearers. Now in
the induction packs there are guidance notes and they have guidance notes for all the office
bearers so there is much more information there. The Chairperson is spokesperson for
the Community Council, liaises with the Secretary about meetings and is also responsible for
the conduct at the Community Council meetings making sure that the meetings are held in
line with the Scheme. The Secretary is very often the busiest person of the Community
Council, usually the first point of contact, organises the meetings, sends out the agendas.
Agendas should be sent out seven days in advance of the meeting. Some Community Councils have
got a Minute Secretary and that helps to take off the burden a little bit. And then finally
we have Treasurer who deals with the finances, gives regular reports to the Community Council
and the Treasurer is required to submit a set of audited accounts to myself after the
AGM. And the Community Council member is also a crucial part of the group because they can
bring ideas to the Community Council, they can contribute to the discussion and they
can also assist the office bearers. Community Council representation is vital if you want
to influence things. Community Councils have a statutory right to be consulted on local
planning matters and we have someone from planning, two people from planning who are
going to give you a bit more information about the Community Council role on planning. Community
Councils have a representational role in a range of licensing matters and they will receive
all sorts of notices of applications, HMO’s, liquor licenses, civic licenses and we also
have a licensing forum which influences licensing policy which Community Councils can attend.
You may be involved in Neighbourhood Partnerships already. We have 12 Neighbourhood Partnerships
in Edinburgh and Community Councils represent the community view on each of the Neighbourhood
Partnerships and again we’ve got another speaker this morning who is going to give a bit more
information about the role of the Community Council on Neighbourhood Partnerships and
what they do. And then we have the… a member of the Edinburgh Association of Community
Councils who represents communities of place on the Edinburgh Partnership Board. The Edinburgh
Partnership Board is a city wide community planning partnership for Edinburgh and its
membership consists of partners such as the Police, the Chamber of Commerce and Lothian
Health and they all work together to tackle the issues that are facing the city.
And the final slide is just about Community Council Support. Obviously you have my support;
I am the central point of contact for all the Community Councils in Edinburgh and can
provide information and advice on a range of things including the Community Council
Scheme. There is also support from the Neighbourhood
Teams you may have already been in contact with the Partnership Development Officers
and the Partnership Information Managers. They work very closely with Community Councils
and can offer information and advice to you as well. You have the Annual Administrative
Grant to support operational costs. There’s an Induction Pack which you receive today
and includes a set of Community Council Guidance notes we also intend to put the guidance notes
online so that you can have easy access. In the past we have provided training on planning,
licensing, community engagement, IT, a whole range of things but we want to hear from you
today, what sort of training and support you would like to help you and there will be opportunities
at the Market Place Event to post your ideas and there is also a questionnaire in your
pack which you can either fill in today or send in later and just, you know, throw up
any ideas that you can think of. And also at the moment there’s some people interested
in social media, Facebook and Twitter, I think you know times are changing and events are
moving on and we want to support you to be able to reach out to as many people in your
community so let us know what we can do to help.
We also have a scheme of Community Council Buddies and basically what that is, there
is a lot of expertise and knowledge amongst Community Councils themselves so we are asking
Community Councils to volunteer to be buddies and in your pack there is a list of people
who have volunteered. Some of them are here today, I saw Jean Thomson, is Jean here? Jean
at the back. And Norman Tinlin. I don’t know if Bridget Stevens is here, I didn’t see Bridget
earlier. They are going to be there at the break and if you want to have a chat with
them they have got a lot of experience of organising meetings, on data protection, on
IT and they’re more than happy to speak to you about any questions that you’ve got. There
is a support package in libraries. Libraries are a great resource for our Community Councils,
you can use libraries to publicise your Community Council meetings, you can have meeting rooms
there free of charge and you can photocopy minutes and Community Council papers free
of charge as well. And finally we have the Edinburgh Association of Community Councils;
we have David Salton here who is the Chair of Edinburgh Association of Community Councils.
It was established in 2001 and David is a founder member, I think you are the only founder
member right?! [LAUGHTER] I wouldn’t…. I don’t know. So it’s a really good way of networking,
there’s question and answer sessions held throughout the year.
Last year there was one held with the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council, there
have also been others with key partners, and I think there’s a few planned for planning,
to let Community Council members know about events and meetings that are happening. Those
are my contact details, presentations will available at the back of the room so you can
collect a copy of all the presentations but if there are any questions I can to speak
to you at the break as well. Thank you.

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