The Community Councils Project stays in close contact with Community Council Liaison Officers (CCLOs) from all 32 local authorities across Scotland and facilitates the CCLO Development Network. This includes a Knowledge Hub group and two national network meetings delivered in collaboration with Scottish Government.
The project sends relevant information to the CCLOs on behalf of other organisations and supports individual CCLOs when necessary. The project also shares knowledge created by the IS staff such as research on election periods and minimum ages to join community councils.
The main CCLO Development Network meetings are well attended and valued by CCLOs and has led to the formation of a spin-off regional group, the Northern Alliance CCLO Network, which began in 2017.
In many local authorities the CCLO is a role held only by one person and is often just one of many roles that the person covers. This could lead to professional isolation and the national CCLO network has an important role in creating a collaboration space for professional development for the CCLOs across Scotland.
The CCLO KHub group provides a virtual meeting place across council boundaries and enables CCLOs to seek advice from colleagues from other local authorities in between network meetings. This is particularly helpful in councils with limited resources for community council support.
The network meets twice a year, usually in June and in November. The Improvement Service sets the agenda, using topics that the CCLOs have suggested (such as grants, complaints, elections) and guest speakers on topics of interest to the network (such as participatory budgeting or the Local Governance Review).
Impact and results
At the November 2018 national meeting, CCLOs were asked what they feel are the benefits of the network. Some of the key benefits mentioned included:
- Learning from colleagues’ experience (good and bad) and a chance to share thoughts and questions
- Updates and possibilities of collaboration on a regional and national level
- Updates from Scottish Government and local authority organisations
- Recognising differences and possibilities in practice across LAs
- Recognition for work and support for challenges
- Personal development through presentations
- De facto consulting body
Feedback from Aberdeenshire CCLOs:
“There was no national body at the time focussing on supporting Community Councils and the Improvement Service involvement was timely. The Improvement Service has provided the following critical support since taking this role:
- It has developed a very helpful and detailed website which is useful to Community Councils and officers who support them. Something which did not exist prior to its involvement and is a very useful tool.
- Identification and promotion of best practice which was then published on the website.
- Forums and conversations with Community Councils about key issues as they are arising.
- Meetings twice a year which have reflected current issues, with agendas influenced by officers supporting CCs.
- Direct involvement of Scottish Government and COSLA at these meetings which has allowed meaningful dialogue and kept them abreast with issues on the ground. The Improvement Service has also acted as an intermediary with Scottish Government to highlight issues and raise concerns on behalf of member.
- Development of relationships between LA officers through the meetings and the Knowledge Hub.”
The network has allowed CCLOs to share guidance and advice. For example, Moray Council has developed a complaints procedure that was highlighted at one of the CCLO network meetings. Several CCLOs have been in direct contact with Moray’s CCLO to use the procedure as a guide for a similar complaints procedure in their local authority.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The IS will also continue to engage with Community Council Liaison Officers (CCLOs) primarily using the Knowledge Hub (KHub), but also through the local events and other channels, as they are an important link for engaging with community councils and for local authorities’ contact with community councils
Lessons learned and next steps
The network has existed for more than five years and is seen as a valuable resource for the CCLOs in its current form, but there are opportunities to further develop the network. Some options available are:
- More themed working groups
- Addition of remote sessions on specific themes
- More dialogue with Scottish Government and related orgs.
- Increase the sharing of good practice.
- Organising “field trips” to learn from each other
- Promote the network achievements
The members of the network and the organisation supporting the network are subject experts and there could be possibilities to collaborate further to develop useful resources on a national level. Some resources that could be developed in collaboration are:
- Standardised templates for elections, cc information, etc.
- Standardised templates for complaints procedures
- Guidance for windfarm income for the model scheme
- Briefing notes for colleagues on CCs work and role
- Review of the model scheme
- Standardised guidance and training for CCs
- Information on the benefits and importance of CCs
- Advocate for and create better advice on resources and funding support for CCs including travel fund