Have you walked down the street in your community, seen something you would like to change, and wondered how easy it would be to make that happen? Maybe it’s a neglected bit of land that could become a community garden. Maybe it’s a new development that you feel needs input from local people who will be affected. Maybe it’s improvements to cycle provision, or somewhere crying out for benches or a wall that needs painted.
Democracy functions on many levels, and in some ways the closer you are to the coal face the more you can be part of making actual, tangible changes happen. On Monday nominations opened for Community Councils across Edinburgh and I hope that many of you will consider putting yourselves forward for them.
Community Councils are voluntary organisations run by local residents to act on behalf of their area. The local Authority sets them up and manages them but their activities are run by, and for, local people.
Anyone can join as long as you are over 16 and on the electoral roll within the community council area. And if you do join you have the chance to make a real difference representing the views of local people, consulting on any changes planned for the area, raising awareness of local issues and looking at ways the community can organise themselves to do something about them. You also have the opportunity to represent the views of the community when deciding how small pots of local funding are spent.
As a local person you have a knowledge and understanding of your area. You know where there are problems, you have probably thought of solutions, and you know the good things that are happening that need support, encouragement or participation.
You also have a good idea of how planned changes may impact on the neighbourhood, specific local quirks that need to be taken into consideration, and how changes could be tweaked to provide the maximum value to the local area.
Community Councils do all sorts of useful and highly valuable things. Portobello Community Council was commended last year for "representing an outstanding standard of performance and exemplifying excellent practice". How did they achieve this? They consulted on two major local projects, engaging with those who would be affected and not just encouraging, but supporting them to make their views known.
I hope this level of participation can be achieved across the whole of Edinburgh East – but to work effectively Community Councils need committed volunteers. In other words they need you.
Nominations close on 26th September. You can find out more here on the Council’s website: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/communitycouncils