Empowering Communities is a pilot project designed to provide Community Councils in Orkney the opportunity to influence and shape the policies that affect the county's fragile island communities.
The Orkney Islands Council led initiative centres around the concept that local input can provide a new way to support and develop communities across Orkney, leading to services which are more responsive to local demand, while also creating a more efficient means of delivery for the Council.
Whitehall Village, Stronsay, from the air. Image by Colin Kedlie.
The unique partnership approach of Empowering Communities supports the Orkney Community Planning Partnership’s Single Outcome Agreement with the Scottish Government, especially National Outcome 11:
“We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.”
It is anticipated that there could also be significant opportunities for other local community groups to contribute to, and benefit from, this innovative approach.
The key objectives of Empowering Communities are to develop and assess options which will:
In practical terms, this could mean:
The project was borne out of response to the feedback from OIC’s Tough Times Tough Choices public consultation sessions held in 2010 where responses suggested that Community Councils should play a greater role in administering Council services - as an alternative to reducing the Council services provided.
From there, the Council arranged a feasibility study and prepared a business plan, identifying the resources required to establish pilots within two island communities. Community Council’s fed into this process by identifying a range of skills available in each community. Following a thorough evaluation process, Papa Westray and Stronsay were identified as being the best placed communities to participate in the first stage of the pilot.
In partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Council has established a centrally-based project liaison officer. The Council has also funded an ‘Island Link Officer’ on each of the two pilot islands.
A ‘Community Office’ has been established on each island – in the former library at the Papay Schoolhouse, and the Fish Mart, Stronsay. These offices provide a base for the Link Officer, offering some of the services provided by the Council’s main Customer Services team on ‘the mainland’, in Kirkwall. The Community Offices also provides working facilities for Council officers visiting the island.
Work is ongoing now to explore the options for extending the pilot to further island communities.
Contact Orkney Islands Council’s Democratic Services team on 01856873535 or email Maureen Spence, Democratic Services Manager.