27 February 2018:


Forty years ago in Scotland, (the home of IACD), the then largest municipal authority called Strathclyde Regional Council – the city/region of Glasgow, with a population of 2.5m – published a report that was to prove seminal in setting out a route map for Scotland’s municipal approach and commitment to community development.

Tony Worthington

The report is known as the Worthington Report after the chair of the council’s Policy Review Group on Community Development Services in Strathclyde. Tony Worthington was then an elected Labour Party member of Strathclyde Regional Council, the largest local authority in the UK outside London and the biggest municipal investor in community development and employer of community workers in Europe. Worthington went on to become a Member of Parliament and was for a time the Labour Party spokesperson on International Development.

Strathclyde Region was a new local authority created in 1975. And its creation saw the election of several modernisers within the Labour Party committed to community development as a key element of the Party’s strategy to tackle multiple deprivation amongst some of the poorest communities in Europe. Other key players included Cllr Ron Young and Cllr Geoff Shaw. The Worthington Report was the first governmental report to examine and to promote community development in Scotland. Central government at the time lagged behind this initiative by Strathclyde and later other regional councils in committing to a community development approach.

The report is fascinating and worth reading again by those of us committed to expanding local government’s role once again as a promoter and investor in community development.  From the 1980s in Britain, with the return of a right wing government, many Labour local authorities continued to support community development even as their powers and funding were reduced in the wave of neo-con privatisation  ideologies of the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. A wave that swept across the world in subsequent decades.

Strathclyde not only influenced Scotland’s approach to community development  but that of many other municipal authorities in Europe. In 1989 the Council of Europe brought out a seminal report urging municipal and regional authorities across the continent to commit to supporting community development. I attended its launch at the European Parliament with Ron Young who spoke about Strathclyde’s approach.  By then I was one of the Directors of the Community Development Foundation (CDF), responsible for developing its European Programmes, including working closely with the Council of Europe to disseminate and promote this new policy agenda to municipal and regional councils.  Tony was one of the keynote speakers at the 1989 international conference we organised with the Council of Europe and European Commission.

At the time the Worthington Committee was meeting I was working for Ron Young who was also the founder director of the Scottish Local Government Research Unit. My work at SLGRU focussed upon the relationship between community education and community development, and we presented evidence on this to the Worthington Committee. I got to know Tony at this time as he represented the constituency where the college I lectured at was located and came to talk about the committee’s work to my students.

Those interested in community development in Scotland can find the Worthington Report here.


References: International Association for Community Development. 2017. Retrieved from http://www.iacdglobal.org/2018/02/27/40-years-on-from-the-publication-of-scotlands-seminal-worthington-report-on-community-development-and-local-government/

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