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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Scottish Government Action Required to Empower Communities

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A Holyrood Committee has recommended that the Scottish Government take action to help empower communities and ensure Scotland’s Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) can meet the ambitions of the 2015 Community Empowerment Act.

The Act created several different powers, ranging from the right for communities to own land or buildings to a right for them to request they participate in decisions about local services.  

The inquiry by the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee focused on Community Planning Partnerships, which operate in every local authority in Scotland to ensure organisations such as local government, health boards, and the police work together with other partners to improve local outcomes in an area.

Examples of partnership work include tackling issues like improved access to drug and alcohol treatment, reducing fuel poverty or supporting people to engage with employability services. 

The report has found that the effectiveness of CPPs and how they work with communities can vary across Scotland.

Almost eight years since the Act came into force, the Committee explored what impact the Act has had on community planning, and how the CPPs have responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis.

The Committee found that although there have been improvements in local partnership working since the introduction of the Act, in some areas CPPs “could be more effective”, expressing “concern” over relationships with the Third Sector and questioning if Scottish Government ambitions are realistic without greater financial support.  

Committee recommendations for improvement include:  

  • A clear and defined role in any national guidance on the local response to emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Refreshed guidance to allow CPPs to keep pace with new national priorities such as Community Wealth Building.
  • Amending the Act to support a wider membership including Third Sector Interfaces, Business Gateway and other organisations to support economic growth.
  • Improving effective leadership of CPPs through implementation of minimum terms or rotating chairs, coupled with training to enable good governance and leadership.

The Committee also considered that more research is needed to consider the impact of CPPs in reducing inequalities as they often struggle to demonstrate how their decisions and actions impact outcomes.

Commenting on the report, Committee Convener, Ariane Burgess MSP said: 

“Scotland’s Community Planning Partnerships play an incredibly important role in supporting communities and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis have brought this into sharp relief.

“At present there is significant variations when it comes to how effective CPPs are in providing meaningful support to their communities through partners collaborating and joined up working, meaning there are a number of missed opportunities and that needs to change.

“Our recommendations clearly set out how the Scottish Government could support the improvement of Scotland’s Community Planning Partnerships to ensure they better serve their communities and better empower the communities they work with in the way the Act envisaged.”

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