Community councils call for national debate on development

Wednesday May 3rd 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

A push for more power over vital decision that affect local towns and villages to be handed over to community councils, is set to be made at a national conference.

The Joint Forum of Community Councils in West Lothian said this week the time has come for community councils to have a greater say in issues which affect communities. and should have powers over planning decisions, town centre development as well as handling grants and other financial support for community groups.

There’s no reason, the Forum believes, that community councillors cannot take on many of the decision making responsibilities currently held by the 32 local authorities in Scotland.

The devolution of responsibility would be a boon in communities which have strong local identity and long established and active community councils, in towns such as Bathgate and even small villages such as Dechmont.

While the growth of community councils has been positive across West Lothian, there are some areas where it has been hard to sustain councils.

Critics say that in many areas, as with other elements of civic life, the “pool” of interested people willing to play an active role in the community tends to be small and distinct.

The Forum has invited community councils from across Scotland to join an online conference to look at ways in which the bodies, first set up fifty years ago can take on more powers to further localise decision making.

Launching the conference date for 10 June the Forum said: “West Lothian Community Councillors had an in depth debate at a conference on the subject and that produced a Blueprint for Future Community Councils calling for more responsibility and powers to be devolved to communities.

“We discussed the Blueprint with our local Council Officers and COSLA officials and put it forward as a contribution to the then ongoing examination of new arrangements for local democracy. The pandemic brought all that to a shuddering halt in 2020.”

The Forum added: “We think that it’s time to resuscitate the discussion particularly in the year when we will be celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the birth of Community Councils. In fact, we cannot think of a better subject for this anniversary year. So, we thought that we should make it a Scottish wide discussion for all Community Councillors, hence this invite.”

Community Councils have survived for 50 years, having been established in 1973, with little or no change to their powers or responsibilities since then. In that time local Councils have undergone a massive reorganisation from 9 regions and 53 districts and 3 Island Councils in 1973, into 32 unitary Councils in 1996.

A Forum spokesman said “No change was made during that reform to Community Councils, which in retrospect is surprising. This is an invitation to join us and Community Councils from all over Scotland for a discussion online on whether or not Community Councils should be part of a new system of devolved government and if we should form a Scottish Community Councils Forum group.”

The Forum has also invited COSLA, the umbrella organisation for the 32 Scottish local authorities and the Scottish Government.”

To register an interest in the conference, email

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