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Aberdeenshire Opposition Welcomes Public Engagement Commitment

>> 13 June 2019

Aberdeenshire Council’s Opposition group has welcomed a commitment given today by council officers to improve the authority’s efforts to inform the public about their right to be involved in shaping public services.

Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) challenged officers at today’s meeting of the council’s Business Services Committee to step up efforts to improve public awareness of the ‘Participation Request’ process after hearing that just one request had been made in Aberdeenshire under the new powers given by the Community Empowerment Act.

Cllr Thomson’s request – which received unanimous cross-party support – will now see further efforts made by the council to raise public awareness of the process. Committee members also agreed that they should receive an update report in six months time to outline the progress which has been made.

Challenging suggestions that the limited number of Participation Requests ‘may be reflective of the good standard of engagement and participation in Aberdeenshire’ which exists currently, Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) said:

“Right now, the low uptake probably has more to do with people not knowing this is something they can do than it has with anything else.

“While this is not the only way that communities and groups of individuals can get involved in decisions over services delivery, it’s still an important tool for influence, especially as a way of opening up dialogue where communities find it difficult to be heard.”

“Today’s cross-party agreement that we should do more to promote awareness of this mechanism is a positive step which, if used well, can help open up the council to new ideas and approaches and allow different voices to be heard more clearly.”

Participation Requests set on a statutory footing the ability of community groups or members of the public to request to have involvement in, and influence over, decisions and services which affect communities.

The single participation request received by the council over the past twelve months - up from zero in the previous period - came from Mearns Community Council and Stonehaven & District Community Council, seeking an improved and more equitable public involvement in participatory budgeting.

The Scottish Government introduced Participation Requests as one tool within a wide range of reforms and changes to community engagement and involvement in local decision-making. Taking account of recommendations from the Christie Commission, the Act introduced this new right to strengthen community voices in shaping local services.

The procedure and further information can be found on the Council’s website at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/communityempowerment/.

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