Community councils facing difficult odds

Keith Davidson.
Keith Davidson.

THE chances of community councils making meaningful change in their areas – despite their best intentions – are just too slim.

Those are the fears of a representative in Coaltown of Wemyss, who is stepping down in December from his secretarial post.

Personally, Keith Davidson feels the odds are too great for such groups to achieve true success.

He knows other areas with active and dedicated community councils may not agree.

But “disillusionment” over many of his experiences since Coaltown of Wemyss CC was formed at the end of 2009 has led him to quit.

Wide-ranging remits, others’ perception of CCs and apathy among residents and could also influence a group’s success, or otherwise.

Particularly disheartening for Mr Davidson was the souring of relations between the CC and Wemyss Properties, over improvements to around 20 of the company’s village cottages, and, he said, its attitude towards the CC.

In his resignation letter, Mr Davidson said an ideal world would mean triumph in all endeavours, engaging significant numbers of village residents in all issues.

However, the CC’s all-inclusive remit meant this could probably never happen.

“Although we were effective up to a point, by definition, community councils can rarely make the ‘correct’ decision, due to the very nature of the issues brought before them,” said Mr Davidson.

Often, CCs received documents of hundreds of pages in length, on issues of very low general interest.

“I have always been sceptical about the effectiveness of any group which is asked to deal with wide-ranging, diverse objectives,” he admitted.

Apparent confusion in the village itself over the CC’s role, poor attendance at meetings and lack of members also contributed to the difficulties, he added.

“Although we were able to help some residents with problems, I always had a feeling of inadequacy in our ability to exert any meaningful influence.

“If the highest offices of our country can ignore their own public opinion polls, ride roughshod over planning committees regarding windfarms, and local unelected officials can create the kind of road chaos created by new layouts and traffic calming measures, with little consultation and no apparent justification, then I really can’t see a future for community councils.”

Mr Davidson stressed his views were highly personal and he had not wanted them to “influence or curtail” the (Coaltown) Community Council in any way.”