Recently we did a couple of posts based on a major Sentinel article in 2001 celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Wester Hailes Representative Council.
We highlighted the historical process by which residents’ action groups had formed and developed over the years culminating in the unique and sophisticated democratic structure that was the Rep Council. What it was all about, we said, was people doing it for themselves – getting together and making things happen to improve their lot.
We mentioned the work that had been done to represent and empower the people of Wester Hailes; how the Rep Council had provided a forum for open debate and become an engine for the formulation of strategic, community-driven policies. The organisation’s 1994-5 Annual Report, a copy of which we’ve discovered in the Sentinel’s archive, gives lots more information about just how extensive these activities were.
The efforts of 27 Neighbourhood Council fed into the main Representative Council. These were the bedrock on which everything else was based. Between them they covered every part of Wester Hailes and were tasked with getting as many residents as possible involved in community action. They met every month and developed individual annual work plans to improve the housing and environment in their area and tackle any other issues of concern identified by their memberships.
An Executive managed the staff and resources of the organisation according to decisions and policies agreed at the full Representative Council. there was also a Neighbourhood Sub-Committee “to encourage the development of strong and healthy Neighbourhood Councils”, a Marketing Group and a Staff Sub-Group. The other key element in terms of representation was a panel of elected Spokespersons “to represent the views of the Representative Council to other agencies and to initiate the development of community policy around their particular area of responsibility”. There were over a dozen of these including Childcare, Community Facilities, Economic Development, Employment & Training, Education, Housing and the Environment.
The Rep Council’s staff were headed by a Co-ordinator and had three main outreach teams: the Community Leadership Development Unit to provide training in leadership skills for those representing the community; the Community Housing Information Project whose aim was to promote and develop tenant involvement in housing matters; and, the Neighbourhood Support Team which supported grass roots community activity and the Neighbourhood Councils.