Angus Community Councillors' Information Handbook
The role of community councils
1. Community Councils
Community councils are the most local tier of statutory representation in Scotland. They bridge the gap between local authorities and communities, and help to make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the communities they represent.
Community councils were created by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. The Act required local authorities to introduce community council schemes for their area outlining various arrangements including elections, meetings, boundaries, and finance. Local authorities have the freedom to tailor schemes to the particular circumstances of their area.
Local authorities and other bodies consult with community councils on issues affecting the community. These issues depend, to a large extent, on what is important to each community, however local authorities are required to consult community councils on planning applications and involve them in the community planning process.
The statutory purpose of a community council is set out in Section 51(2) of the 1973 Act, as follows:
“In addition to any other purpose which a community council may pursue, the general purpose of a community council shall be to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which these authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable”.
It is essential however, that these views are demonstrated to be accurately representative of the community and, accordingly, community councils should have in place recognised consultative mechanisms to validate their views; and devise strategies to secure greater involvement by all sectors of the community. A community council has a statutory right to be consulted on planning applications. Licensing matters and any other matters may also be jointly agreed between community councils, local authorities and other public sector and private agencies.
A community council may also carry out other activities that are in the general interests of the community it represents. Community councils engage in a wide range of activities – their own and other meetings, commenting on public policy, publicity and promotion, dealing with enquiries and carrying out surveys of opinions.
There are currently 25 community councils in Angus and elections are held every four years. Community councils are established according to the ‘Angus Council Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils’.
The purpose of community councils is to represent a full cross-section of the community. It is important that community councils are seen by their local communities to be actively engaged in ascertaining local views. It should not be automatically assumed that a community councillor’s own personal views on a subject will be those of the community as a whole. Therefore, in ascertaining views, community councils should ensure there is wide consultation with the community. They should also encourage local interest and participation in community debate. In this regard, community councils should be aware of the National Standards for Community Engagement and the relevant equality legislation.
Community Councillors should make it clear when they are expressing their own views as a member of the public and not those of the Community Council which they represent.
1.3 National standards for community engagement
The National Standards for Community Engagement are good-practice principles designed to support and inform the process of community engagement and improve what happens as a result. They were originally launched in 2005 and since then they have been used to support community engagement, and user involvement, in Scotland in areas such as community planning and health and social care. They have been widely accepted by a range of practitioners as key principles for effective practice.
During 2015/2016, the National Standards for Community Engagement were reviewed and updated. The aim of this review was to reflect the developing policy and legislation relating to community empowerment in Scotland, and to build on the growing range of practice. Angus Council, and the Angus Community Planning Partnership, have endorsed the use of the National Standards for Community Engagement.
The National Standards for Community Engagement set out seven statements of commitment that can be used to develop and support better working relations between communities and agencies delivering public services. They are underpinned by principles of good practice that have been highlighted by community and agency representatives across Scotland to promote equality and fairness. Whilst these standards will help to develop and support better working relationships between communities and agencies delivering public services, community councils will also find these standards helpful in relation to their relationship with their own community. Details of the standards can be found at Appendix 1.
The Equality Act 2010 provided a new cross-cutting legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It aimed to update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and to deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
The Act bans associations from discriminating against, harassing or victimising people in a number of ways. Associations must also make reasonable adjustments to allow people with disabilities to participate. The main area relevant to community councils in which you must not discriminate, harass or victimise is:
In the arrangements associations make for selecting or rejecting new members and the terms for joining.
Further information can be found on the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland
1.5 Communicating with the community
Public notice of meetings
All meetings of community councils are open to the public and public notice of each meeting stating the business to be discussed (ie an agenda) should be posted prominently within the community council area. Such notice may be by newspaper advertisement or by notice displayed in a public place (including on social media/website) or a place to which the public have general access within the community council area. This should be made available a reasonable amount of time before the date of the meeting. Community councils should hold at least six meetings per year and more if appropriate.
Community Council Minutes
A draft minute should be circulated within 21 days of the date of the meeting to community council members and sent to email@example.com
Approved minutes should be made available in places in the area to which the public have general access within the community council area (including social media/website).
Reporters from the local press often attend community council meetings. However, community councils should also consider issuing press releases to highlight items to be discussed at community council meetings, conclusions reached at community council meetings and to raise awareness of local matters.
With regard to making use of the internet/websites, the Angus web portal can be used to promote the community council and its activities. This facility is free of charge. Community council activities may also be promoted using Angus Council’s social media outlets. To promote a particular event/activity, get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Many community councils have their own social media websites which is a great way of communicating with the local community. Angus Council strongly recommends that community councils use websites as a way of raising awareness of their work in the local community.
1.6 Communicating with Angus Council
Community councils should communicate with Angus Council in accordance with the Angus Council Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils - unless there is a specific agreement or an issue is a specific departmental issue, all correspondence must, in the first instance, be directed through the community planning email box email@example.com
Routine enquiries should be directed to the Angus Council website or contact by telephone using ACCESSLine 03452 777 778.
Change of membership/office bearers
Community Councils should ensure that the Councils is kept up to date with any change in membership and/or office bearers. Any changes should be notified to firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to reduce the amount of documentation received, and to make communications more timeous and effective between community councils and Angus Council, we strongly encourage community councils to communicate electronically.
General data protection regulation
GDPR is a new, Europe-wide law that replaces the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK. It sets out requirements for how organisations need to handle personal data. GDPR will still apply to the UK after Brexit. It is important for community councils to be aware of GDPR when dealing with any personal information. More information is available on the ICO website.
2. Angus Council
Angus Council is one of 32 local authorities in Scotland. In Angus Council services and staff have been grouped into three ‘Directorates’, to respond to and deliver services to the citizens of Angus (see Appendix 2). Angus Council serves the community through eight multi-member wards, which are represented by 28 councillors. Angus Council is committed to working with, and supporting, community
councils in Angus and has a range of responsibilities in relation to Angus community councils:
- it is responsible for setting up the community council scheme which sets out the framework for how community councils in Angus should work
- it makes contributions towards the expenses of community councils
- it arranges training for community council members and
- it provides a community council liaison officer as a single point of contact
Angus Council recognises that community councils have an important role to play in acting as the local voice for their community. Community councils ensure that the Council is as well informed as possible on local opinion on a range of issues before it makes its decisions.
With the intention of strengthening the relationship between Angus Council and Angus community councils, a policy statement on Angus Council’s relationship with community councils has been agreed by both Angus Council and Angus community councils. The policy states that Angus Council will consult with community councils on appropriate issues and provide feedback. Consultations are made available through:
Have your say website
Angus Council has created a Have Your Say area of its customer-facing website which lists current consultation exercises that can be commented on, and those that have been completed in recent years.
What's new list
An Angus Council ‘What’s New List’ is sent by email to community councils on a weekly basis. This includes a list of current consultations and community councils can decide which consultations are relevant for them to respond to.
These meetings are held each year with the purpose of allowing an exchange of views on matters of general concern to community councils, as well as providing an opportunity for Angus Council to consult/report on policy initiatives.
2.3 Angus Council Customer Care Standards
Good communication with customers is important to Angus Council. Angus Council aims to respond to letters, phone calls and emails as swiftly as possible and has the following standards in place:
- we will respond to letters within 15 working days. If a full response cannot be given within that time you will be given a target date for a full response
- we will answer phone calls as quickly as possible and any telephone message will be responded to promptly, wherever possible within one working day
- we will reply to emails within one working day, either to answer your query or to inform you when a full response will be given. The Council aims to respond in full within 15 working days but if we are unable to do so we will give you a target date for a full response.
Angus Council will also, where deemed appropriate, copy Angus Councillors in relevant wards, in to email correspondence. This is to ensure a ‘joined-up’ way of working between community councils and Angus Council.
3. Community Planning
Community planning is about how public bodies work together and with local communities to design and deliver better services that make a real difference to local people’s lives. Community planning is a key driver of public service reform at local level. It provides a focus for partnership working driven by strong shared leadership, directed towards distinctive local circumstances. Partners work together to improve local services, ensuring that they meet the needs of local people, especially for those people who need those services most.
Angus Community Planning Partnership has a strong record of partnership working with public, private and voluntary sector agencies. This coordinated approach is the essence of community planning, working together to plan, improve and deliver the services required by communities.
In order to ensure community planning in Angus is 'fit for purpose' the structure and membership of the partnership have been revised. There is a greater emphasis on:
- tackling inequality
- promoting opportunities for all
- promoting a sense of pride in community
- supporting people to have greater control of their lives
- supporting people to help each other
The Local Government in Scotland Act, through the duty of community planning, requires the council to invite and encourage community bodies, including community councils and other public sector bodies within Angus area to participate in community planning. It is particularly important that communities are engaged in the process at a local level as it is here that agencies can come together and work with their communities to address local issues.
Angus Community Planning Partnership is committed to working with community councils for the good of the Angus community and in pursuit of the aims and priorities of the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan and the four Locality Plans. Community councils play an important part in community planning, given their role to represent their local area, to consult with and express the views of their community.
For more information on all the work that is currently happening in local communities across Angus and for up to date progress on our four locality area plans check the website.