Letter on Hanvey & communities

Council elections are looming, and the new SNP leader Neale Hanvey will certainly not be the last politician to assert a passionate belief that communities should have “a strong voice that drives the direction of Fife Council”. Easy as it is to side with communities when in opposition, the crux for the SNP will come if they form the new administration in May.

If Cllr Hanvey wants to distinguish himself from his Labour counterpart at Fife Council, leader David Ross, who also declared a few months ago that communities were at the heart of what the council does, warm words will not be enough. Cllr Hanvey could, for example, commit any administration he leads to restoring and extending the budget for Community Learning and Development (CLD), which Labour continues to cut.
Cllr Hanvey could require CLD involvement in controversial decisions on local amenities so communities are informed, engaged and given the support to explore options before the Council presents them with the so-called consultation on a proposal which is in fact a fait accompli.

Had this happened, for example, with the new visitor centre project at the Meedies, we would now be looking at a much better project, and much happier community-council relations. Certain Labour councillors might have been spared the need to break promises and mislead communities, and their Labour colleagues as well as certain officers might have been spared the need to cover for them.

Policymakers love to point to the voluntary sector as taking up the slack left by cuts to all services, but this requires capacity-building in communities where volunteers are often a tiny aging minority who are already all volunteered out. Undermining the all-important trust between communities and the council while scrimping on CLD makes no sense.

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