Elections to East Lothian’s community councils are proposed to be held on 7 October.
The recent full meeting of East Lothian Council heard that elections had been due to take place in autumn 2020 but were deferred by the Chief Executive due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is proposed that elections are instead held on Thursday, 7 October as a postal vote.
Councillor Jim Goodfellow, East Lothian Council’s Cabinet Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, said:
“East Lothian’s 20 community councils play an important role in contributing to the vibrancy of the county. With more than 200 members at present, our community councils work very hard in the best interests of each local area and are greatly valued by myself and other elected members within the local authority as key partners.
“Being a community councillor can be a very rewarding and fulfilling role and, over many years, our community councils have carried out fantastic work to deliver projects that have benefited local people including the organisation of events such as firework displays, festivals, Gala Days and delivered and contributed to a whole range of other projects which have helped others, for example improving the environment.
“Giving East Lothian residents, including those who are new to the county, a strong voice is very important as well as empowering people to help make things happen and shape policy.
“Representing the views of residents, particularly in response to local development and planning matters, and working with other local organisations including membership of East Lothian’s Area Partnerships, plays an important role in ensuring local towns and villages are great places in which to live and work.
“It was unfortunate that the elections had to be put on hold due to the pandemic, but I’m very pleased that we will be moving forward with the process in October.
“Nominations can be made between the end of August and the middle of September and I would encourage as many people as possible with an interest in making a difference in their community to consider putting themselves forward. Depending on the number of candidates, elections will then take place by postal vote in October.”
Ralph Averbuch, Chair, Association of East Lothian Community Councils, said:
"Community Councils (CCs) play a critical part in local democracy, both working with and holding to account the East Lothian Council and its councillors on decisions which affect us all. The upcoming Autumn elections will give all 20 CCs an opportunity to showcase how that work has evolved to reflect the times we now live in. CCs are only as good as its members. This is why it's imperative we encourage new blood into our ranks. Young or old, everyone has unique experience and insight they can bring to the role. This autumn all CCs will be aiming to not only enthuse the next generation of community councillors, but be ready to answer questions and help make the choice of becoming a champion for their communities an easy one."
Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils
Meanwhile, following consultation with the Association of East Lothian Community Councils, an update to the Scheme for the Establishment of Community Councils (known as ‘The Green Book’) has been approved to reflect the shift to digital operating formats, online meetings and communication methods. It has also been agreed that a handbook with further supplementary guidance for community councils on matters such as a code of conduct for community councillors, procedure for casual vacancies and managing complaints, will be produced prior to October’s elections.
The Scottish Government is currently reviewing Guidance for the operation of community councils. After this is published it is proposed that a local review of community council boundaries is undertaken to take account of the population growth and housing development across East Lothian.
Community councils are provided for in statute by the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 and the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994. They are local representative bodies which are recognised as statutory planning and licensing consultees. Under the terms of Section 51(2) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, the purpose of a community council, in addition to any other purpose which it may pursue, shall be "to ascertain, co-ordinate and express to the local authorities for its area, and to public authorities, the views of the community which it represents, in relation to matters for which those authorities are responsible, and to take such action in the interests of that community as appears to it to be expedient and practicable".
Each community council receives annual grant funding from East Lothian Council comprising a contribution towards their administration and insurance costs and a local priorities grant, which is calculated on a per capita formula.
Each Community Council in East Lothian is supported by their local Connected Communities Manager as a first point of contact on any local issues or requests for advice on Community Council operational matters.
More information about the elections will be available in the weeks and months ahead.