Residents associations are made up local people living in housing estates or apartment complexes who come together to promote and enhance the living environment of the area and to ensure that the area is well represented when dealing with Local and Statutory Bodies.
Much of the work of residents associations and other community groups can go largely unnoticed. However it is organisations such as these that raise awareness on local issues, that are at the forefront of defending the local environment and undertake community projects such as community clean-ups and tree planting on a voluntary basis. Essentially these organisations are the life blood of communities.
It is absolutely essential that these groups get the support of local authorities.
How can residents associations engage formally with the Council? As it stands currently Fingal County Council’s Community, Culture & Sports Division is responsible for servicing deputation meetings. So if an Association has a particular issue they want Fingal’s assistance or input on a meeting is set up. The Council ensures that relevant staff from different Departments and the local Councillors are present at the meeting. Issues usually deal with items such as:
- Taking in charge of an Estate;
- Road safety within an Estate;
- Planning issues;
- Upkeep of green areas;
- Littering and dog fouling.
While engagement between the Council and residents associations has been formalized it still remains extremely limited. Meetings are limited to once a month for 40 minutes. Also the time of meetings is set for afternoons meaning that residents associations members who work full-time are put at a disadvantage. Residents associations are also limited in terms of the list of items they can submit, it is set to a maximum of five.
We need to promote the involvement of local community groups and residents associations and while residents associations are recognised under section 128 of the Local Government Act 2001 the onus is on the individual residents associations to be proactive. We need a new approach and to start with a database of every residents association and community group within Fingal County Council. We have seen a huge number of new estates built over the last decade and we need to ensure that they are properly represented.
If every Council had a contact person for every residents association and community group each month an outline of the work done by the Council could be easily circulated. Also an online forum could be developed where groups could raise issues and share information. This could be rolled out quickly and would be cheap to maintain but invaluable in terms of the sharing of information and ensuring excellent communication between Council and residents.