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Community Empowerment Act - What it means for You

community empowerment act front coverThe Community Empowerment Bill is now The Community Empowerment Act after receiving Royal Assent on 24th July 2015. The Act will help to empower community bodies through the ownership or control of land and buildings, and by strengthening their voices in decisions about public services. The text of the Act can be found on the Legislation.gov.uk website at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2015/6/contents/enacted.

 

Different parts of the Act are likely to come into force at different times and as a rough estimate, Scottish Government expects most parts of the Act to come into effect by summer 2016.

 

SCDC has published a briefing to summarise and help community bodies understand the Act and what it means for them. This briefing can be downloaded on the SCDC website:

http://www.scdc.org.uk/media/resources/policy-and-practice/SCDC%20briefing%202_15_CE_Act.pdf.

 

SCDC aims to publish more summaries as different parts of the Act come into effect.

 

Below is a brief summary of each of the 11 topics covered in the Act.

 

National Outcomes: Scottish Ministers must consult on, develop, and publish a set of national outcomes. They must also report progress towards these outcomes publically and on a regular basis.

 

Community Planning: Places Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) on a statutory footing and imposes duties on them around the planning and delivery of local outcomes, and the involvement of community bodies at all stages of community planning.

 

Participation Requests: Provides a way for community bodies to put forward their ideas for how services could be changed to improve outcomes for their community.

 

(UPDATE: 08 Apr 16: Consultation on Participation Requests draft regulations are now open. They will close on 15th June 2016 and can be found here: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/community-empowerment-unit/participation-request-regulations)

 

Community Rights to Buy Land: Amends the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, extending the community right to buy to all of Scotland, urban and rural, and improving procedures.  It also introduces a new provision for community bodies to purchase land which is abandoned, neglected or causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community, where the owner is not willing to sell that land.  This is if the purchase is in the public interest and compatible with the achievement of sustainable development of the land.

 

(UPDATE: 19 Nov 18: Scottish Government has shared guidance on Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 - Part 3A - Community Right to Buy Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental Land. The full guidance can be found here: https://www2.gov.scot/Publications/2018/11/2847/downloads)

 

Asset Transfer Requests: Provides community bodies with a right to request to purchase, lease, manage or use land and buildings belonging to local authorities, Scottish public bodies or Scottish Ministers.  There will be a presumption of agreement to requests, unless there are reasonable grounds for refusal. Reducing inequalities will be a factor for public authorities to consider when making a decision. Relevant authorities will be required to create and maintain a register of land which they will make available to the public.

 

(UPDATE: 08 Dec 15: For more information, a timetable for implementation, a series of discussion papers which set out what is provided in the Act and what needs to be decided in regulations and guidance, and flowcharts to give an overview of how the process is expected to work, please go to http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/engage/AssetTransfer )

 

(UPDATE: 08 Apr 16: Consultation on draft regulations for Asset Transfers is now open. This will close on 20th June 2016 and can be found here https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/community-empowerment-unit/asset-transfer-procedures)

 

Delegation of Forestry Commissioners’ Functions: Allows for different types of community body to be involved in forestry leasing.

 

Football Clubs: The Scottish Government is committed to the principle that supporters should have a role in decision-making, or even ownership when the opportunity arises, of their football clubs. The Act provides powers for Ministers to make regulations to facilitate supporter involvement and give fans rights in these areas.  The Scottish Government will shortly issue a consultation paper to explore the best way of taking this forward.

 

Common Good Property: Places a statutory duty on local authorities to establish and maintain a register of all property held by them for the common good.  It also requires local authorities to publish their proposals and consult community bodies before disposing of or changing the use of common good assets.

 

(UPDATE: 03 Aug 18: Statutory guidance for local authorities on common good property was published in July 2018, available at https://beta.gov.scot/policies/community-empowerment/common-good-property/)

 

Allotments: Updates and simplifies legislation on allotments.  It requires local authorities to take reasonable steps to provide allotments if waiting lists exceed certain trigger points and strengthens the protection for allotments. The Act also requires fair rents to be set and allows tenants to sell surplus produce grown on an allotment (other than with a view to making a profit).

 

Participation in Public Decision-Making: A new regulation-making power enabling Ministers to require Scottish public authorities to promote and facilitate the participation of members of the public in the decisions and activities of the authority, including in the allocation of its resources. Involving people and communities in making decisions helps build community capacity and also helps the public sector identify local needs and priorities and target budgets more effectively.

 

Non-Domestic Rates: Provides for a new power for councils to create and fund their own localised business rates relief schemes, in addition to existing national rates relief, to better reflect local needs and support communities.

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