Community empowerment must be done properly – Robert Brown

28th June 2018

Proposals by South Lanarkshire Council’s SNP Administration for a new approach to community participation have been criticised by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownas “disappointing” and “not thought through properly”.

The Council’s Executive Committee agreed to appoint 7 new officers to a new Community Participation and Empowerment Team. An “Awareness Session’ for Councillors has been arranged to brief them about the new proposals.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am strongly in favour of empowering local communities and groups but much of what is done at the moment doesn’t work very well. There doesn’t seem to be much that is particularly new in the proposals.

One of the big problems is that “consultation exercises” are shot through with jargon so that people feel left out. The traditional tenants and residents groups have also declined or disappeared.

I want to see a much more radical approach. The Council’s Area Committees should be much more at the heart of decision making so they can be real champions of local communities.

A yearly or twice yearly “Town Hall” type meeting in local areas like Spittal, Burnside or Cathkin chaired by the local Councillors could have reports on all Council services in the area including plans for housing regeneration, road and pavement resurfacing, Parks and facilities and transport.  That could give local residents real engagement – with scope for a public Question Time session and effective accountability from elected representatives.

It is entirely unclear what the proposed new community development officers would do. I think they should be linked to local halls or facilities with the job of supporting new local groups and helping reinvigorate older ones.

It would have been far better if Councillors had been able to discuss the new arrangements before they were taken forward.”

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