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CSPP’s Richard Kerley Gives Parliamentary Talk on Coming Challenges for Local Government

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Edinburgh, 16/4/2015 (CSPP) - Yesterday afternoon the Chair of the Centre for Scottish Public Policy (CSPP), Professor Richard Kerley, spoke to the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) on the challenges facing Scottish local government over the next few years and the need for the principal of localism to form part of the response to these.

Speaking to parliamentary staff, Professor Kerley outlined what he called “Known Knowns”, “Known Unknowns” and “Unknown Unknowns” [a phrase once famously used by Donal Rumsfeld] to describe the challenges facing local government and public service provision in the coming period.

The “Known Knowns” included continuing financial pressure on local authorities, reductions in staffing and services, integration of health and social care, cross party review of the Council Tax / residential property taxes, and attempts to empower communities via the Community Empowerment Bill.

Professor Kerley highlighted potential issues for changes to local services, such as that the integration of health and social care could create additional centres of authority with distinct interests in addition to  existing health boards and local authorities. He also warned that if proposed enhanced childcare provision only covers the school week then this will not meet the needs of workers on more flexible shift patterns and working hours that do not fit a standard ‘office week’ .

Meanwhile in terms of potential challenges described as “Known Unknowns”, the CSPP chair pointed to the continued ad-hoc removal of local services to more centralised bodies, the need to address community empowerment in light of the limited role played by community councils, and the importance of addressing the imbalance in Council Tax bands and the skewed incentives these create for purchasers.

What would be brave?

In light of these scenarios, Professor Kerley advocated instilling the principal of localism in the running of local affairs. By this he meant that in a mature democracy decisions should be taken locally unless required to be taken centrally, with the exception of critically overriding circumstances.

“We need to think very hard about what levels of decision making are appropriate. What decisions and competences do we give to a geographically defined community?” he said.

A possible outcome of such an approach would be to introduce local referenda and “affirmative voting” on big capital projects and other important local initiatives.

Further measures could be to give local councils discretionary powers over what taxes and charges they levy, remove the need for central government approval over much of local authority decision making, and to look at how to better promote community empowerment.

At the same time, Professor Kerley warned against the dangers of “maxi-minimalism” whereby overly asymmetric and autonomous local authorities can lead to poor management or undesirable practices, such as “Missouri Mess” in the US, with multiple small councils all competing with each other.

The talk was followed by a question and answer session during which those present discussed the points raised further.

Professor Kerley was invited to speak as part of a week of SPICe events looking at the challenges facing Scottish policymaking moving toward 2020.

Such parliamentary presentations are one of many ways the CSPP works with its members and other stakeholders to foster debate, undertake research and promote innovative thinking and solutions for public policymaking in Scotland.


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BIDs Scotland Gathering 2015 a Success


The BIDs Scotland Gathering took place on 3 March 2015 and saw over 200 industry leaders from across, business, tourism, towns, communities and national and local government come together to celebrate the growing movement of Business Improvement Districts in Scotland and around the world.

A variety of delegates braved the snowy morning to arrive at the Perth Concert Hall, many contributing to our diverse exhibition showcasing business services, the third sector, towns support bodies and Business Improvement District groups.

The programme kicked off with Alex Neil MSP highlighting the growing success of Business Improvement Districts. He said:

"Over the past seven years, BIDs have played a significant role in the regeneration of many parts of Scotland, supporting economic growth and strengthening communities. Central to its success is strong leadership and partnership between local authority, business and community interests.

Having witnessed the success of BIDs, I encourage leaders here to consider how they can benefit from BIDs."

Keith Aitken, the Chair for the day, helped to set the scene by outlining how BIDs were thriving across lots of different communities in Scotland.

Director of Business Improvement Districts Scotland, Ian Davison Porter, outlined the growing success of BIDs in Scotland. He noted that Scotland had just gained its 29th and 30th BID just days before - Glasgow Byres Road and Dunblane.

Denzil Skinner from Essential Edinburgh outlined how BIDs can deliver greener cities - and the great work that Essential Edinburgh has been doing for the area around Rose Street and George Street.

Next up, Alastair Mitchell from Falkirk delivers spoke about how Falkirk BID has made the town safer and friendlier by working with local businesses and the community.

Next up was Sam Crawford from Enterprising Bathgate. He highlighted the need for BIDs to support businesses in whatever way they can after listening to local business concerns and needs.

Delegates networked over coffee, sharing stories of best practice from around Scotland.

Malcolm Brown, Chair of Queensferry Ambition spoke about the need for BIDs to work with and within their own communities to make sure everyone was thriving together.

Graeme Ambrose from Uniqueness BID then explained how Scotland's first tourism BID had to work with local communities and address local business needs in order to succeed.

Finally, international speaker David Downey, President and CEO of the International Downtown Association spoke about raising ambition for Scotland. He outlined how the BIDs movement has been growing across the US, and that public private partnerships can bring creativity and renewal to cities like Detroit that have suffered heavy population decline.

The Gathering ended on an extremely positive note, with David Downey forecasting a strong and growing network of business improvement districts across the US and the UK.

If you met someone knew, learnt something new or shared an idea we want to hear your feedback, let us know by completing this short survey! You can also view the BIDs Scotland Gathering delegate list.

Source: BIDs Scotland Gathering 2015 on Storify. See link to view multimedia material from the Gathering.


Cash boost for groups which tackle inequality

A diverse range of projects such as healthy eating clubs, money advice centres and grow your own gardens will receive funding to tackle poverty and inequality.

The Scottish Government’s £12.6 million People and Communities Fund is being allocated to 197 groups across Scotland that are changing disadvantaged communities by providing advice, training or voluntary opportunities.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil announced the funding on a visit to Urban Roots in Glasgow, which will receive £72,000 to set up four community garden hubs.

Projects are funded if they demonstrate how they can tackle poverty and promote social inclusion within communities.

Mr Neil said: “Every community in Scotland has different challenges and aspirations and there is no one-size fits all approach to tackling poverty.

“That’s why our People and Communities Fund is giving communities the power and confidence to shape their own futures and address inequalities more effectively.

“The fund allows community groups the chance to identify problems in their area and the funding to provide solutions.

“Since the Fund launched in 2012, we have seen the real difference it is making by empowering communities to deliver new skills, training and volunteering projects that fit local priorities. This £12.6 million will give more communities more of a voice.”

Urban Roots received £170,000 from the People and Communities Fund between 2012-15 to develop community gardens, growing spaces, local clean-ups, biodiversity improvements, recycling and cycling projects. These initiatives have helped build skills locally.

Les Rice from Urban Roots said: “The People and Communities Fund has enabled Urban Roots to set up community gardens in numerous locations across the Southside of Glasgow, empowering local communities by improving their physical health and mental wellbeing, reducing food poverty and increasing employability prospects through training and skills sharing.

“The People and Communities Fund allocation for 2015/16 will allow these communities to build on the previous three years’ hard work by expanding the services offered at four key locations in Priesthill, Castlemilk, Toryglen and East Pollokshields.

“These new community resilience hubs will be spaces for action, inspiration and learning, and will help tackle poverty and promote social inclusion.”

Source: Third Force News


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