What Works Scotland and the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) are carrying out participatory research with community councillors, support officers and key local and national stakeholders to identify how community councils can have greater relevance and explore what opportunities exist for them to make a difference in the areas they represent.

The work, supported by the Scottish Government, will explore how community councils can be even more relevant in Scotland’s evolving policy context. The key objective of the research is to provide evidence to inform ongoing public service reform and forthcoming local government reform.

Irn recent years there has been significant change in Scottish policy towards public service reform and democratic renewal. The Christie Report and its recommendations for public services reform has been followed by new legislation such as the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act. The Scottish Government is set to develop new policy on decentralisation, and to encourage higher levels of local decision making through its Manifesto commitment to turn over 1% of local authority budgets to public decision.

Community councils are seen to have an important role within this policy environment.  In its 2016 Manifesto, the Scottish Government reaffirmed its continued commitment to Scotland’s community councils undertaking to “allow community councils, that can demonstrate a strong democratic mandate, to deliver some services.” (p33)

In the Community Empowerment Act (2015) community councils are defined as a ‘community participation body’ that can make a participation request. The Act also sets out circumstances where community councils should be notified on matters regarding the use of local common good property. Guidance on ‘localities’ within the new integrated health and social care structures identifies community councils as having a representative role in this context.

The Review Steering Group Meeting in Edinburgh is to be followed by regional workshops. Register for a place at the regional workshops on the Community Councils Scotland website.

Evidence from previous work with community councils undertaken by What Works Scotland staff demonstrates that there is an appetite to examine a progressive role for community councils in the current policy context and to investigate what actions are needed to support them to undertake their democratic role more effectively.

SCDC and What Works Scotland are also carrying out a review of existing literature on community councils and similar models around the world which should highlight possible options for reform. A survey of community councillors is being conducted between May and June 2018.

The Review is due to be completed in the summer of 2018 with a view to feed into the current Local Governance Review conducted by COSLA and the Scottish Government.