Two Scottish Government officials led a recent Improvement Service webinar (10 Oct) to promote directly to Community Councils the new consultation phase of the government's Democracy Matters local governance review. The consultation document is here  . The very earnest endeavour is to give people the opportunity to come together in their communities to imagine how new and inclusive democratic processes can best help their town, village or neighbourhood.

I attended the event. What follows are my personal impressions.

There was no doubting the sincerity of the Scot Gov speakers. However, their somewhat evangelical tone was somewhat undone by the reaction from the floor. (There were around 30 Community Councils represented.) Some long-standing issues emerged.

# How can CCs get through the barriers to meaningful / rewarding ‘engagement’ with Local Authorities (LAs)? They won’t listen / answer / act. That is the fundamental / core ‘participation disincentive’; and when LAs do act, it is usually ‘over our head’ (with ‘consultations’ ‘pre-packed’ because stretched staff just want the job done).

# ‘Current CC resourcing (financial and other) is a joke’; CC hands are tied. They are ‘toothless’. Here, the English Parish Council model (conceded as such by the Scot Gov people) was talked-up from the floor.

# So much more could be done ‘better’ if LAs wrapped their CCs’ Admin / IT / Media needs within their Microsoft 365 Teams LA structure, so to provide a baseline competence for all.

# There is a ‘big desire’ for much better relationships with LAs. ‘We’d like the LA to do things with us rather than to us’, to drop the ‘take it or leave it’ baseline attitude.

# More frequent meetings between CCs and their LA are a clear need. For many CCs, their LA just pays lip-service.

With more 'powers' would come new 'responsibilities', so Community Councils would have to step up the search to get the right people on board, people 'actually capable of enacting responsibilities', it was said. Nevertheless, resource and funding constraints are holding Community Councils back. Funding is at the heart of it. Funding whets appetites, interests, participation, endeavour and commitment. It stands to put any Community Council on a more stable, meaningful, confident platform, from which it can ‘shout louder / project better’.

In that vein, your community Council has nothing to lose by reviewing and responding to this Scot Gov consultation, calling it as you see it and imagining that different future. It’s an apt time to do so, given the coincidence of the CC Scheme Review.