We recently published an article concerning the lack of community notification over the upcoming Community Council elections. This article encouraged debate on our Facebook Fan page and it was suggested that the responsibility lies with Fife Council over the notifications and that the community was aware of the election because there is 16 applications for 15 places.
However out of the 16 applications, 13 applications are by existing Community Councillors, so only 3 new applications have been made out of an estimated population of 6,749 (2001 Scotland’s Census). Besides that, we do know that Fife Council did make a notification on their website, and as far as we are concerned Fife Council carried out their duties.
The problem arises that Fife Council has a very large website with a lot of information, therefore content is not readily visible unless you know what you are specifically looking for, therefore we feel that the Community Council should be making more public notices available concerning all their activities.
For this post we are going to make some comparisons of 2 community councils operating in Fife; Lochgelly and Kinghorn. One of these community councils are trying follow the guidelines published by the Association of Scottish Community Councils, the other fails on many points.
Keeping the Community Informed
The Kinghorn Community Council currently run their own website which is updated on a weekly basis (www.kinghorncommunity.org.uk), as well as distributing a newsletter to every home, making press releases in the Fife Free Press, displaying notices in the Library, Community Centre, Post Office and Notice Boards.
Lochgelly Community Council do not make any public notices online or offline. The only notice of any kind is usually displayed in the Lochgelly Community Development Forum window. We suspect that the only reason notices are displayed there is because the LCDF, try to keep the local community informed.
Kinghorn Community Council also display their minutes of the meetings in the library, community centre and online on their own site: http://www.kinghorncommunity.org.uk/KCCdocs.html
Lochgelly Community Council only distribute the minutes of the meetings in Lochgelly Library. We can discount distributing the minutes of the meeting through the Community Centre as we are currently lacking that facility.
Kinghorn Community Council also display images of their community councillors with their contact details online. Lochgelly Community Council do not display their members information anywhere online apart from contact details of the Secretary which is available on the Fife Council website.
Any details published on this site about the Lochgelly Community Council was thoroughly researched by members pestering other Community Councillors, the information is just not readily available anywhere.
Details of meetings are displayed in public notices and online by Kinghorn, yet Lochgelly there is no notices other than in the minutes of the meetings. We just happen to know that it is every second Wednesday of the month, and the venue can be very changeable.
Improving the Community Council
The Community Council, if willing, can easily improve their communication with the local community by grasping new media technologies. For one we have already asked to distribute the minutes of the meetings via this site over several months ago, yet we never received a reply. Replying to messages from the community would make a good start in improving relations and showing that the Community Council is representative of the local community they are elected to serve.
Other things that can be done include:
- Make public notices available in the local shops, community spaces, churches and local offices.
- Distribute the minutes of the meetings in the Fife Council local office, the Lochgelly Community Development Forum, the Town Hall, the Lochgelly Centre (when it reopens), and the library (which you currently do)
- Make regular Press Releases to the Fife Times and other local free papers such as the Herald & Post and Extra. Make Press Releases to Fife Council controlled publications
- Create a website, this doesn’t have to cost anything, you can create a website for free at Wordpress.com which you have full control over and it requires little to none technical skill. We would even volunteer our time to help you set it up and provide training if required.
- Register for this site and s1Lochgelly.com and start publishing your news to a wider audience.
- Create a page on a Social Network such as Facebook.
- Display all contact details for the Community Councillors, and include images so that the Community Councillors are recognisable.
- Conduct regular polls to ensure the Community Council is representing the views of the community and not Community Councillors.
This is just a small selection of what can be done by the Community Council to increase awareness and interact better with the local community it is elected to serve. Also note that these suggestions just mirror the recommendations laid out by the Association of Scottish Community Councils.
Kinghorn Community Council have done well in meeting the ASCC guidelines, yet the Lochgelly Community Council fail on so many points. However with the elections taking place hopefully this will mark a new era for the Community Council to go forward and embrace the guidelines set out by the ASCC.
Community Council Poll
As laid out by the ASCC, Community Councils should make regular polls to test their effectiveness locally. We have conducted an initial poll which we will be running for a couple of months to judge how effective the Community Council is. If you haven’t voted please do so below.
Everyone should be receiving a letter shortly with voting papers to elect their community councillors. We will publish the information provided by Fife Council very shortly.
Do you feel Lochgelly Community Council represents your views or the views of the community? Do you think they can be doing more to raise awareness of what they do and improve communications locally? Is there any other issues or praise you would like to give the Community Council? Please feel free to share your comments on the Community Council below.