Yesterday, the chair of the community council and I met to work out what needed to be done to arrange an extraordinary general meeting of the council. We need to arrange an extraordinary general meeting of the community council because the new community council needs to agree to re-adopt the existing constitution of the community council. The community council needs to re-adopt the existing consistution within three months of being elected, otherwise it is not validly constituted and can be disbanded. It needs to re-adopt the existing constitution at either its AGM or an extraordinary general meeting, it can’t just do it at one of our scheduled community council meetings, because reasons. In order to have an extraordinary general meeting, we need to post notices not less than 15 days in advance but not more than 21 days (are you keeping up there at the back? I can go over it in more detail if you like…)
All this caused me to wonder out loud whether the system is designed to ensure that only the sort of people who a) bother to read constitutions, b) can work out what they mean and c) are detail-oriented enough to fulfil all the nitpicking obligations within them will survive as community council officers. And that this might not be entirely accidental, those being the people least likely to take it into their heads to cause trouble for the coonsil.
The UK, and particularly Scotland, has the largest local government areas in Europe, and it’s crying out for some real local self-determination. Unfortunately, community councils are not it, having, effectively, zero powers.* However, they can, with a little imagination, make a small difference to their areas, especially now that they are getting some money from windfarm payments (which the big council was helpfully offering to take off our hands and spend on our behalf, if we liked).
For that to happen, they need people with real leadership and the ability to get on and do things, regardless of whether they were the sort of thing the council had in mind for them to do. And in my experience, people who fit that description AND can manage all the constitutional extraordinary general meeting noticed period shenanigans are rare beasts indeed. I know I’m not one of them, but I’m trying to keep my head above water and tick enough boxes that we can avoid being disbanded and – more importantly – not spend all of our time jumping through bureaucratic hoops instead of actually changing the few small things it’s possible for us to change. That way we might be able to raise our sights a little higher than lobbying for a bus shelter on Big A Road, if it’s not too much trouble, some time before the waters close over our heads …
* I’m always amused (and saddened) when talking to Dutch people about things like rural speed limits and traffic in villages. They say things like ‘the villagers decided they didn’t want through traffic on that road so they closed it’. We say things like ‘after about 30 years of lobbying, this village finally managed to get the speed limit on the A-road that bisects it down to 40 mph’.