SNP plan to hand raft of council management responsibilities to community councils exploits volunteers and risks service sustainability

Community Councils are unfunded and community council members unpaid volunteers, often retired.

A substantial number of rural community councils struggle to get even the minimum of nominees to act as Community Council members. Making up the minimum number of nominees – never mind enough for an election – means calling in favours, begging and arm twisting.

There are standout examples of highly successful community councls – often almost wholly dependent on a couple of highly skilled,  highly motivated and assertive retired high fliers with a sense of public duty.

Such people are rare and, to be brutal, they are on a timeline which, for a variety of obvious reasons, will see them unable to carry on indefinitely. At that point, such community councils find it all but impossible to get others prepared and able to step up to take over.

This situation describes many community council as they are today, without given administrative and management responsibilities.

An SNP spokesperson has said that the party’s plans ‘to hand more powers over to local communities are the most radical seen in Scotland for many years’.

These ‘powers’ [ie responsibilities] are said to include matters like ‘looking after’ [ie maintaining] public parks and sports facilities; and possibly managing housing schemes, council properties and organising clearing services.

There is not one word of payment for accepting these ‘powers’ [ie responsibilities]

The financial picture is that John Swinney, Finance Secretary, was personally responsible in 2012 for withdrawing the modest government grant  that had supported the Scottish Association of Community Councils .

This left the association unable to continue  and it was wound up on 30th April in that year.

At that point, its then President Vincent Waters, described community councils as being ‘in a dangerous place, with a dwindling and ageing membership’, saying that such people are ‘dying off and the expertise and experience is dying with them’.

This SNP enforced closure of the Association of Scottish Community Councils was widely regarded as leaving community councils with no forum where they can share ideas and best practice.

Community Councils currently get a very modest annual grant from their local councils to cover their administrative costs – largely phone, postal and stationery costs incurred by the volunteer Secretary and Treasurer.

This proposed move  would appear to be an SNP wheeze to save money and cut council grants even further, under the guise of the promotion of local democracy – by handing over ‘powers’, which would  be obligated and quite demanding responsibilities, to the unpaid volunteers who are members of local community councils.

Trying to pay for extravagant governmental spending promises by trading on the goodwill of ageing volunteers, enabling the cutting of council responsibilities  and thereby staffing costs – is an act of the greatest exploitive irresponsibility; and an enterprise that will broadly fail, with chaotic consequences.

The equivalent of postcode lottery will apply.

Communities temporarily fortunate enough to have a group of able, confident, articulate and committed volunteers on their community councils will manage somehow; and local services will, for the time being, continue.

Others, struggling to get anyone even to sit on their community councils [never mind accepting the burden of an unpaid working post] will see a marked degradation of the local facilities and services they have been asked to take responsibility for managing.

The sine qua non of public services of all kinds is reliability.

Asking community council volunteers to undertake the management of such responsibilities simply cannot guarantee service reliability – or even continuity.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • The whole of Fort William Community Council resigned en masse at the end of last year because they could not see the point in continuing with centralisation of all decisions in Inverness and their not being consulted or listened to by Inverness..

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

    Lundavra May 3, 2016 4:08 pm Reply
  • Community councils in A& B couldn’t do worse than the incumbent administration.
    It’s taken years of practice for them to be so useless.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 13

    Hugh Jazz May 3, 2016 4:22 pm Reply
    • That’s right, HJ, anything to deflect attention from the issue itself – SNP Uber Alles.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

      Robert Wakeham May 3, 2016 5:07 pm Reply
  • There is also the point of legal liability will Community Councillors be indemnified against individual costs should for example a project fails?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    Steve May 3, 2016 9:40 pm Reply
  • Isn’t this exactly what the Conservatives at one time called the ‘Big Society’? I can’t see SNP drawing any link between the ideas though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

    Jerry McIver May 3, 2016 9:52 pm Reply
    • JB, your right on the money but the difference is the structure in rUK has been thought through and discounting teething problems will delegate authority to local government.
      What is the motive to bypass councils in favour of community councils? Someone please enlighten me.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

      Richard May 3, 2016 10:12 pm Reply
    • The ‘Big Society’ was the Conservatives big idea they didn’t realise it was something that had been going on for many years and called volunteering but as that was a ‘pleb’ activity they knew nothing about it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

      Steve May 4, 2016 9:23 pm Reply
  • If true, this proposal is total madness and obviously thought up by someone who’s never been to a Community Council meeting in their life and has absolutely no idea what a burdensome job it is being a Community Councillor. Our CC is made up largely of retirees and a few younger ones who have “day jobs”. All have lives to lead beyond the already time consuming tasks associated with being on the CC. One member is a farmer, so perhaps he could assist by running some sheep and goats on the parks and sports fields. That would keep the grass, flowers and bushes nicely under control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

    ClootieDumpling May 4, 2016 1:15 pm Reply
    • It does show the SNP have not got a clue – speaking as a ‘younger one’ with a day job. I’d love more responsibility, but will councils start holding sessions in the evenings? Will I get paid for timeoff I would have to take to undertake these duties?

      A bit like the Land Reform Act – all great, but when it coems down to the detail, unworkable and not thought out beyond some idealists wetdream.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

      JB May 4, 2016 10:08 pm Reply
      • Just like the non SNP Argyll and Bute Council then JB

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

        Keitho May 5, 2016 7:03 pm Reply
    • Make up similar to Argyll and Bute Council then.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

      Keitho May 5, 2016 7:01 pm Reply
      • Argyll and Bute Council’s most famous quote.
        Heard loudly…
        “What way have I to vote Dick?”
        Loud response from more than one voice,
        “Dick’s no hear Jimmy”
        Breathy reply,
        “Oh hell whit noo.”
        The community councils are open to everyone including the right wing big mouth critics on here.
        Frightened you won’t be elected?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

        Keitho May 5, 2016 7:10 pm Reply
  • Seems to me like the SNP want Holyrood to be the new Westminster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    Jade May 4, 2016 11:22 pm Reply
    • Seems to me like you’re talking guff!!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

      Hugh Jazz May 5, 2016 3:00 pm Reply
      • Jade getting too close to the truth, HJ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

        Robert Wakeham May 5, 2016 5:39 pm Reply
        • That’s nice!!
          Seems your talking guff too!!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

          Hugh Jazz May 5, 2016 8:18 pm Reply
  • Classic divide and rule. Instead of 32 county councils fighting for their share of the pot, it will be approx 1400 community councils in the fight, with Govt picking off the weakest. It will require community councils to take on overheads, and management skills, to deliver,and be accountable for these devolved responsibilities, which a SNP Govt in turn does not propose to fund.

    This is another example of SNP fiscal illiteracy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    Scotnat May 5, 2016 11:48 am Reply
    • Yer doing a fair bit of SNP Baaaading at the mo!!
      Wait until 12 midday tomorrow,you’ll be inOrbit.
      SNP Majority,on its way!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

      Hugh Jazz May 5, 2016 2:59 pm Reply
  • Popcorn machine now on operation status,ready to deliver 3.5 kg of the good stuff per hour. History is in the making. Let’s get Nicola in and go for Indi!
    Just shoved 36 cans of beer into fridge set at 3*. Lovely,you should try it!
    If you need a quickly,IE if Big useless Ballie get kicked out,shove said can in freezer,set at -8* for 22 mins. That will keep you going.
    If a Yoon party wins a seat,just have another beer anyway as you can change channels to see another SNP win. Regular as clockwork.
    As Mr. Salmon would say,I’ll report back later!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

    Hugh Jazz May 5, 2016 7:54 pm Reply

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