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Community Councils

Listening and responding to your community

Community councils acting on their communities behalf.

Consultation should be undertaken regularly and effectively. Communities also want to see how their views are being reflected in the decisions made on their behalf, by community councils.

There are two parts to this responsibility:

  1. Seeking the views of local residents; and
  2. Keeping local residents informed of the community council's work, as their elected representatives.

This is a positive duty which will immensely improve the service the community council gives to the community.

The most important points to remember when consulting local residents are:

  • Always make it easy for the public to contact you.
  • Always seek comments and opinions from the community.
  • Encourage membership from across the community council's geographical area and also attempt to reflect the diverse make-up of the community it represents.
  • Always evaluate the effectiveness of the community council by analysing its outcomes on specific issues (this can be a positive feature of the chairperson's annual report to the community council's annual general meeting).
  • Never let the personal opinions of individual members of the community council substitute the views of the community.
  • Always adhere to the principles of the pdf icon Code of Conduct for Community Council Members [25kb].
  • Ensure all information produced by the community council is available as widely as possible and is also easily accessible.
  • Ensure mechanisms are in place to encourage and allow members of the public to inform the community council of issues that they would wish to have discussed and their views reflected appropriately.

Here are some examples of how you can consult with local residents and keep them informed of the work of the community council:

  • Ensure your local authority is giving you the support you need to fulfil your duties.
  • Include main contact details in every piece of paper, email, etc. that is issued from your community council and always encourage feedback.
  • Minutes of community council meetings should accurately reflect the business of their meetings and how decisions were reached. Such decisions should be made on the basis of evidence-verified community opinion, to clearly demonstrate to both the local community and public agencies, such as the local authority and Community Planning Partnership partners, that the community had been listened to and their views properly represented.
  • Create a website using the  links in the Council's Advice Note and also  set up Facebook / Twitter / electronic newsletter. List contact details for all members of the community council, including pictures where possible. Show the time, date and venue of meetings and publish your agenda. Include the Minutes of all previous meetings.
  • Collate a database of e-mail addresses of residents.  Ask for their permission to send them e-mail bulletins seeking their views and also reporting your actions. E-mail them monthly with your next agenda, approved Minutes and any news.
  • Display community council contact details in all public buildings. Include information on what you do and how you can help.
  • Secure space in any local newspapers and publications.  Publicise your work and invite comments. Newsletters and social media are a good means to engage and share information and also to gather local views and identify how these have shaped the work of the community council and its business agenda.
  • Hold surgeries for the local community in public venues. These could be community premises, libraries, or indeed use a portable table at a local supermarket/shopping mall. Advertise these well in advance.  Experiment with times, days and venues and with the format of the surgery. Remember to always have at least 2 members of the community council present.
  • Where practicable, get space in publications produced by the local authority. For example, East Renfrewshire Council hosts an electronic News and announcements, which is updated frequently. You might do this collectively, with adjacent or all community councils.
  • Create and carry out surveys at least once a year. Ask questions about the community's perception of you, their community and their quality of life. Ask what the community council can do to help to improve the community and address their priorities. Be sure to include questions on the issues that will be important to your neighbourhood in the future, even if the fine details are not yet fully known.
  • Consider shorter, faster surveys on individual issues of significant local importance. Responses from these are vital in helping you demonstrate and validate how you speak for the community as a whole.  Targeted leaflet drops can be fruitful.
  • Invite and encourage the local Press/media to attend meetings. Issue Press releases on matters of local interest. Seek training on media relations. Consider appointing a press liaison member.
  • Whenever you have a change of office bearer, inform the local authority and all relevant organisations. Reinforce the status, work and approachability of your community council. Do the same after every community council annual general meeting.
  • Hold public meetings (in any event - all meetings of community councils are open to the public) whenever there is an issue of sufficient local importance. Monitor the attendance in terms of whether it representatively reflects the community - age, gender, race, area of residence and so on.
  • Place suggestion boxes in prominent, busy local venues. Leave pencil and paper for ease of use. Explain that these are for local residents to make comments and / or suggestions on how to tackle a local issue or generally improve the community. Always respond to comments left by requesting contact details / e-mail addresses. Regularly report comments received at community council meetings.
  • If there is a local community radio station, consider using it to promote the awareness and work of the community council. However, do be aware that community councils should always take a non-political approach on all subject matters.
  • Word of mouth and informal personal contact is a common practice and of course has its place. However, it is the least objective method of discovering the community's views and should not be relied upon entirely when the community council makes important decisions.
  • Consider, where practicable, to divide up your community council area into designated geographical areas for individual community council members to be responsible for and to be a focal point for contact.  This is already addressed in 4 community council areas with designated neighbourhoods. 

Remember

  • Always make it easy for the public to contact you.
  • Always seek comments and opinions from the community.
  • Always evaluate your effectiveness, or otherwise, regularly by results.
  • Never let the personal opinions of individual members of the community council replace the views of your community.
  • Always adhere to the principles of the pdf icon Code of Conduct for Community Council Members [25kb].

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