THE energy of youth is what is required to breathe new life into community councils.
With nominations opening this week for those looking to join the groups, Moray Council convener Stewart Cree is encouraging the younger generation to step forward.
Councillor Cree (65) was a member of Keith Community Council before being elected as an Independent councillor representing Keith and Cullen in the local authority elections in 2007.
He said: "My great fear is that the volunteering classes who put themselves forward are ever aging, and we need to get young folk in.
"If you look back to the time of the local Town Councils, they had members in their 20s and 30s, that’s the people we really need to get interested in serving.
"Maturity can bring great experience and that is handy, but we need the energy of youth."
Councillor Cree added: "In my opinion community councils should have their own pot of money that they should use for the benefit of their community, and folk could genuinely see the difference being made locally.
"If they had responsibility for small financial projects it could be a big advantage and generate more interest in the groups."
The former Grampian Police officer had experience working with organisations in the town – including the community council – but was prevented from joining the group because of his job.
After retiring from the force he was keen to help out and became a member of the community council in 2004.
He said often it was issues such as street lighting, problems with manhole covers, dog dirt and badly maintained pavements that caused problems in communities.
Following criticism from the Audit Commission that Moray and other Scottish local authorities were being too inward looking and needed to take a more strategic approach, Councillor Cree said the community councils provided a vital role in informing local authorities of the issues causing problems in their areas.
He added: "They are often termed watchdogs – they are the eyes and ears of the community – but they are a lot more than that.
"For instance, Keith Community Council runs the Christmas entertainments and ran the jubilee celebrations last year, and in Cullen they run the gala and produce the calendar.
"The community council raises money in Keith for the Christmas lights because there was no way they were going to be second best to any other town. They are proactive.
"There were problems in the squares with boy racers, so the community council organised a public meeting with the police, residents and other organisations and even Mary Scanlon came and it was very positive.
"There was no shouting there was no blaming.
"The police came up with an action plan and gave out leaflets and there was some enforcement.
"You will never cure the problem because you have to keep educating. That said, it is an example of how community councils can engage with the community."
Gary Coull (27) began attending Keith Community Council when he was just a teenager.
"I started going to meetings as an observer and putting forward youth issues including those at St Rufus Park and graffiti," he said.
"I also spoke about action to stop traffic at the war memorial during remembrance Sunday."
He added: "A community council can do a lot of good for a community when it is proactive.
"Also, it gives young people an insight into the workings of Moray Council, government and the different levels of government that impact on the community.
"The community council should make sure their area is heard in the big local authority area."
Councillor Coull, who is the SNP member representing the Keith and Cullen ward, added the groups could provide a stepping-stone into political life.
"Some people stand for community councils on single issues but councillors can go in for single issues as well," he added.
"But they have to remember they can’t speak about that one issue all the time. The ones that are proactive, the communities see a difference because of them."
Candidates have until September 26 to lodge nomination papers, with community council elections taking place in October for the areas where the number of candidates exceeds the number of seats available.
Anyone aged 18 or over who lives in their community council area is eligible to stand.
Further information can be found at www.moray.gov.uk/communitycouncils where nomination forms can also be downloaded.
Forms are also available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01343 563334.