Purpose: In Scotland, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act represents a significant development towards greater localism in the way public services are designed and delivered in Scotland. This also represents a different approach to that adopted in the rest of the UK. The purpose of this paper is to explore the stakeholder perceptions of localism within a council ward. Design/methodology/approach: This paper is based on an in-depth exploratory case study of a single council ward in East Scotland. The fieldwork involved 61 in-depth interviews with multiple stakeholders including local councillors, public service managers and residents. Findings: The findings highlight that, whilst the discourse of community empowerment represents policy divergence, there remain some significant structural and social barriers to meaningful community empowerment in practice. Finally, it is argued that there are three key factors to consider when developing community empowerment: a shared strategy, shared resources and shared accountability. Originality/value: The research draws on extensive data from an in-depth case study to explore the realities of community empowerment within a single local authority ward. In doing so, it provides a rich contextual narrative of how the rhetoric of community empowerment is perceived within a council ward setting.