On 30th January 2023 the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee joined with 37 representatives from community and third sector organisations to hear about their experiences of community planning. The event was co-produced and co-facilitated by the Committee, Voluntary Health Scotland and the Scottish Community Development Centre.
Attendees went into four different breakout groups which focused on the rural and islands perspective, health organisations, TSIs (third sector interfaces), other member-based organisations, and community groups.
Attendees told the Committee that there are opportunities to tackle prevention through community planning; for example, the issue of healthy weight cuts across environmental control, school meals, access to green space, and local planning decisions. Positive community planning examples included local authorities that support participatory budgeting, and voluntary sector networks meeting to identify community concerns to feed into community planning. However, the unequal distribution of power amongst community planning partners was highlighted, with local people and the third sector sometimes feeling they are unheard. CPP processes can be convoluted, formulaic and indirect, with little scrutiny of agenda items and CPP structures are not always set up well to engage with the third sector or community members. Community planning isn’t always accessible for community groups and some voices may struggle to be heard, including people with learning disabilities. The language of community planning and the amount of documentation create difficulties. Communication with the wider community needs to improve. All of that said, attendees agreed the Act was a step in the right direction and, although far from perfect, the position would be worse without it.
This summary report records the views expressed during the engagement event, and these are being taken into account by the Committee as it progresses its inquiry.
The engagement event was part of the Committee’s scrutiny of the impact of Part 2 of the Community Empowerment Act 2015, including how Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) have responded to significant events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis. Part 2 of the Community Empowerment Act (2015) changed how community planning is delivered by CPPs. They have to develop Local Outcomes Improvement Plans and targeted locality plans for smaller areas which need more support. Partners also have to work with communities to involve them in community planning.
The evidence sessions are continuing during March and April, with a round-table with individuals, community councillors and development trusts, a meeting involving health and education, and finally the Scottish Government on 25th April.