Strange question perhaps, but in the nature of bureaucrats everywhere, the Department for Communities and Local Government are apparently faced with the need to come up with a legal definition in order to make progress on the 'Localism Bill'.
Apart from the rather strange spectacle of nationally defined local communities, another issue it seems is the ‘general power of competence’, which is set to give councils the power to act in the best interests of their communities. It appears that this has been changed from a previous wording of ‘power of general competence’.
In that light, Gabriel Chanan, formerly of the Community Development Foundation, has written a letter to theTimes:
Sir, Civil servants preparing the Localism Bill for the government are said to be having difficulty defining what a community is so that it can be given legal powers. This is promising. A community cannot be given legal powers because it is not an entity. It is a description of a certain (or more often uncertain) state of relationships amongst the population of a locality or some other group with interests in common. The only population-based entity to which you can give legal powers in a locality is a community organisation of one sort or another. This ought to throw the spotlight onto the question of the relationship between such an organisaton and the rest of the local population. So when the government, in Big Society mode, says it will enable ‘communities’ to take over a public service, the question should immediately arise of what does that community organisation need to do to show that it is acting in the interests of the whole local population, and what responsibility necessarily remains with the relevant public authority to ensure this. Communities as a whole do not and cannot take over public services. Community organisations can collaborate with public authorities to deliver the services better.
Gabriel Chanan, www.pacesempowerment.co.uk
I don't know if they published it, but now you have read it anyway.
[via Neighbourhoods blog]