Empowering Communities Pilot Project

Orkney Islands Council is currently mid-way through a project to trial new structure for localising the delivery of services through providing community councils greater responsibility for the management and delivery of council run services in their area. Local input could provide a new way to support and develop communities across Orkney, developing services which are more responsive to local demand, while also creating a more efficient means of delivery for the council in addition to providing local employment opportunities.

Key Activities

Orkney Islands Council established a centrally based project liaison officer within Democratic Services, OIC, in January 2015. Initially this post was a partnership arrangement partially funded by HIE Orkney. In addition, Orkney Islands Council funded an Island Link Officer post in each of two pilot islands.

A community office has been established in the former Library, Papay Schoolhouse and the Fish Mart, Stronsay. These offices provide a base for the Link Officer, offering some of the services provided by the main customer services section of OIC and also provides an office space for officers visiting the island. The Link Officer assists to co-ordinate local activities sourcing local contractors to undertake work on behalf of the council as further opportunities arise.

In 2018, the council extended the pilot to include two additional islands, Hoy and Sanday. The Link Officer in Hoy is working with other local community groups to develop initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of its residents while the Link Officer in Sanday is developing a local directory of services available within the islands.

Benefits and Impact

The key outcomes of the project are to develop and assess options which will:

  • create efficiencies in terms of resource and/or cost

  • increase employment opportunities in island communities

  • up-skill the island based workforce

  • increase sustainability through building capacity to manage and deliver local services and improve access to services

  • enable locally based community groups to work together to maximise the potential benefits to island residents.


The community councils, elected members and council officials have embraced this new initiative but changing the organisational culture or long established working practises and/or procedures within the council takes time. Council services are often part of 3-year contracts so this also introduces barriers and delays. Introducing efficiencies through new working practises requires an initial investment of resources to facilitate changes.

Further Information

Please see: Empowering Communities Background Information paper

Contact Information

To find out more about this case study, please contact

Gavin Barr
Executive Director
Orkney Islands Council

01856 873535


Maureen Spence
Democratic Services Manager
Orkney Islands Council

01856 873535