The purpose of this report is to summarise the strand 2 responses to the Local Governance Review. 20 Local Authorities submitted a response, 6 Community Planning Partnerships and 16 other bodies responded including Regional Transport Partnerships, 2 NHS bodies and the Enterprise agencies (see Appendix One for the list of respondents). Two individual responses have also been considered. Overall, a total of 44 submissions were made to the Strand 2 Consultation and the key points contained within those responses are summarised within this report.
As might be anticipated, there are a wide range of views expressed across the responses. The phrasing of the formal consultation questions encouraged a diverse approach to the issues covered by respondents. It is also the case that many respondents chose not to directly address the consultation questions; instead opting to simply write about their experiences and the issues of greatest relevance / concern to them.
This report summarises the main issues reflected in the consultation responses. These issues do not necessarily reflect the views of the Improvement Service.
There are a number of key themes which have emerged across the responses, including:
- "One Size Does Not Fit All"- there needs to be recognition that no two communities are the same and that approaches should be flexible to accommodate the local context. Whilst perceptions of 'postcode lotteries' may be challenging, asymmetrical government is often appropriate and desirable in order to reflect variable localised circumstances and priorities.
- The current landscape is complex. A number of responses indicated that there is no wish to complicate this any further with new bodies or additional legislative requirements.
- A few respondents suggested that the Local Governance Review presents opportunities to amend existing legislation to facilitate better local governance and partnership working.
- There should be a continued focus on engagement and capacity building with local communities and ensuring engagement is better understood. The point was made that proper funding from Scottish Government needs to be available to support this.
- Several respondents indicated that their communities do not necessarily want control / responsibility, but generally do wish to have greater influence on decision making.
- There was wide agreement from respondents that structural change, changes to governance or empowerment of communities cannot be made without additional funding from Scottish Government. Additional funding needs to be provided and/or greater fiscal control with regard to raising revenue given.
- Many respondents, particularly Local Authority respondents, highlight that progress is constrained by short term budgets. This has an impact on achieving significant change and partnership working, in general. It is difficult to involve communities in any long-term projects. Further complexity also arises as there is not always alignment of budgeting across partnership organisations.
- The majority of Councils commented that too much of Local Authority budgets are ring-fenced, particularly in regard to education and social care, which constrains innovation and flexibility. Fiscal autonomy is key for local decision making to be meaningful.
- Linked to the previous point, a number of Local Authorities indicated that there is considered to be too much centralised decision making and there is an opportunity to redress the balance of the Scottish – Local Government relationship.
- In order to develop local governance and subsidiarity respondents highlighted that there are opportunities to build on existing Community Planning Partnership arrangements or develop Single or Integrated Public Authority models.
- Shared data and evidence/open data is key to promoting understanding in communities, across public sector partners and in order to effectively target priority issues.
- There is an appetite for the adoption of the European Charter of Local Self Government from Local Authorities.
- There is an appetite from Local Authorities to replace the Power to Advance Wellbeing with a stronger / clearer Power of General Competence, which would include the responsibility for local taxation.
- A few local authority responses highlighted that the role of Community Councils should be reviewed with potential for more devolution of power / budgets to them.
- Consideration needs to be given to the right level of place for delivery of services – Local, Regional and National.
In addition to the above key themes, there are also a number of interesting / useful suggestions, which are summarised in chapter 4.