Edinburgh Council axe flagship locality committees after a year

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The city council has been accused of “losing democratic accountability” after “dissolving” its flagship locality committees after just one year.

The four locality committees began to meet in February 2018 to “ensure a local focus is provided which responds to residents and communities”.

However, one year into the project, the meetings have been scrapped because of an “inability to properly engage with local communities”.

A leading community councillor has blasted the authority for refusing to trial the new locality model first, which he claimed “didn’t give communities a voice”.

The council divided the city into four quarters to manage some services and scrutinise local police and fire services. Conveners were appointed for each of the four committees, which have only met five times each, who receive additional salary for the responsibility.

New organisations are set to replace the committees to give local groups a stronger voice through the Edinburgh Partnership called ‘neighbourhood networks’.

The council said any replacement for the locality committees will involve more of a community-led engagement and meaningful participation at a local level.

Council leader Cllr Adam McVey said: “This is essentially a tidy-up to make sure our governance arrangements at a local level mirror and are consistent with the arrangements of the Edinburgh Partnership.

“It would not be right to use this as an exercise to hoover up the existing meaningful decision-making that already sits at a local level.”

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Robert Aldridge, said the decision was an “attempt to take back control to central committees” and that the authority risked “losing democratic accountability for a range of really important functions”.

He added: “We welcome the review of locality committees but it raises a number of really important questions but it doesn’t provide clear answers to them. In our view, it’s a really useful work in progress, but it’s premature to make a decision about the options until the system to replace the localities has been set out in detail.”

A community councillor has labelled scrapping locality committees as “an excellent decision” – but warned any replacement must have communities at the core.

Norman Tinlin, secretary of Fairmilehead Community Council, added: “They don’t trial anything, and rather just have a big bang like they did with the bins.

“They didn’t do enough preparation beforehand and the communities didn’t have a voice. If they go for a neighbourhood partnership model, that would suit the community where we could influence things.

Mr Tinlin added: “The Edinburgh Partnership is far too remote and is focused on people at the top of the tree. Things don’t seem to filter down.”