Dialogue story posted: 14/07/2017
Dialogue story posted: 14/07/2017
Over recent years, legislation and national policy in Scotland (such as the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the joint Scottish Government/ COSLA Community Empowerment Action plan of 2009) has recognised the importance of, and been developed to support, strong, independent and resilient communities - empowered communities.
Community ownership of assets has been identified as having a role to play in this through inspiring people, creating opportunities and potentially transforming communities by helping them respond to these challenges by taking even greater control of land and buildings where they live. In communities across the country local people are concerned about losing locally valued assets and associated services - from community centres to parks, libraries and town halls. At the same time councils and other public bodies are facing intense financial pressure, resulting in the need to maximise the use of publicly-owned land and buildings, or dispose of them and the associated costs, wherever possible. Transferring an asset to a suitable community organisation can enable a redundant public building to thrive again or turn a marginal public service in to a viable community service.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and guidance introduced a right for community bodies to make requests to all local authorities, Scottish Ministers and a wide-ranging list of public bodies (relevant authorities), for any land or buildings they feel they could make better use of. They can request ownership, lease or other rights, as they wish. The Act requires those public authorities to transparently assess requests against a specified list of criteria, and to agree the request unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal.
As the Community Ownership Support Service (COSS), a Scottish Government-funded programme rolled out by the Development Trusts Association for Scotland (DTAS), we offer support on all aspects of asset transfer and community ownership to community bodies and relevant authorities. This can range from face-to-face support to running training and networking events, as well as providing a range of written resources and useful downloads on our website.
We see several ways in which Community Councils, uniquely placed at the centre of their communities, can play a key role, particularly in the early stages of the asset transfer process. As well as being able to give a group advice on the wider aspects of community priorities or local plans this support can be by:
This third option is particularly helpful at a time when setting up a bank account as a basic constituted community group can take some considerable time and effort. It will be important for a Community Council to check its constitution to make sure it is set up to do this, but most structures do support this role.
If you are a Community Council interested in looking at asset ownership, don’t hesitate to look at our website, www.dtascommunityownership.org.uk, or contact us at our office in Edinburgh on 0131 225 2080.
Why not participate in a discussion about wider community engagement? You can share your views in the Knowledge Hub group*
* Please note if you are not already a member of this group, you will be asked to register.
Linda Gillespie is Programme Manager with the Community Ownership Support Service