Community Councils in General
The Purpose of a Community Council
A Community Council is a voluntary organisation set up by statute by the Local Authority and run by local residents to act on behalf of its area. As the most local tier of elected representation, Community Councils play an important role in local democracy. Community Councils are comprised of people who care about their community and want to make it a better place to live.
As well as representing the community to the local authority, Community Councils facilitate a wide range of activities which promote the well-being of their communities. They bring local people together to help make things happen, and many Community Councils protect and promote the identity of their community. They advise, petition, influence and advocate numerous causes and cases of concern on behalf of local communities; for example:
- carry out projects to enhance their community;
- consult with the local community over matters of importance;
- campaign on local issues;
- organise community events.
Community Councils are the strongest means of becoming involved with your local area. It will give you a good understand of the workings of local government and what is going on locally and nationally. All local authorities in Scotland encourage citizens to become members of their Community Council.
How Community Councils are Elected
Community Council elections, which are administered by the local authority, are generally held on a four-yearly-cycle, outwith local government election years, on dates to be determined by the local authority. Should the Community Councils election cycle fall in the year of Scottish Local Government or Parliamentary elections, the Community Council electoral proceedings will be held in the following year.
Anyone over the age of 16 and who resides in the local area and named on the Electoral Register for that area, may stand for election. Individuals seeking election to a Community Council require to be nominated by a proposer and seconder, both of whom must be on the Electoral Register for that Community Council area. Nominations require to be submitted with the candidate’s consent and self-nomination is not permitted.
Each Community Council has a minimum and maximum numbers of councillors who may be elected. Should the number of nominated candidates be less than the minimum, the Community Council cannot be established at that time. If the number of nominated candidates exceeds the maximum, an election will take place, in which all registered voters in the area may participate. If the number of nominated candidates is more than the minimum, but less than the maximum, then no election will take place and all candidates will be appointed to the Council.
The Roles in a Community Council
Each community council must have a Chairperson, a Treasurer and a Secretary – the office bearers – and these roles carry the most responsibility. The office bearers, as elected members representing their local communities are responsible for the efficient and effective operation of the community council. This doesn’t mean to say that the office bearers do all the work, but they are responsible for making sure that everything is done according to the Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils. All members of the community council are equally responsible for the community council’s decisions and actions and may take on additional activities in support of the community council.
The office bearers’ roles are described below.
The Chairperson has an important role in making sure meetings and business run smoothly. They are elected in line with the Community Council’s Constitution and are expected to fully understand the roles, procedures and rules governing the Community Council to be able to take the role as mediator if a disagreement arises. Chairs will:
- Prepare agendas in consultation with others and the Secretary.
- Ensure meetings are run effectively on time and to the agenda.
- Ensure all discussions and decisions are taken in a democratic and participative way ‐ sum up so that action points are agreed; encourage participation in discussions.
- Ensure voting is fair and have the casting vote in the event of a split decision.
- Ensure all business is done to the governing rules.
- Represent the Community Council with outside bodies.
The Secretary has responsibility for much of the administrative tasks in the Community Council. The role includes:
- Setting the agenda with others and distributing it before meetings
- Taking a true record of all meetings (minutes)
- Ensuring that minutes of meetings are sent to the local authority and are publicly available
- Dealing with all correspondence including writing letters as required
- Distributing information to members
- Arranging speakers and guests (could be passed to others)
- Arranging venues (could be passed to others)
Other areas of responsibility may be allocated to other councillors as determined by the Community Council.