News In Focus
MSPs call for views on Community Empowerment Bill
Proposals to give communities across Scotland powers to participate in local decision making, and to take ownership or management of lands and assets into community control, have been put out for evidence from the public by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee.
Beginning its scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, the committee is inviting views from local communities and interested bodies as to whether the proposed measures really will deliver empowerment and whether they will lead to real changes to where decisions are made.
The policy underlying the bill is to provide a strategic framework to empower community bodies through the ownership of land and buildings, and strengthen their voices in the decisions that matter to them; and to support an increase in the pace and scale of public service reform through an increased focus on outcomes and improving the process of community planning.
Community planning partnerships will be put on a statutory basis with defined roles and responsibilities, and place new duties on public sector partners to play a full and active role in community planning. Community bodies can also make participation requests in relation to service delivery, asking to take part in a process to improve desired outcomes.
The community right to buy land will be extended to the whole of Scotland, and a framework is provided for community bodies to purchase abandoned or neglected land. Separate provisions for asset transfer requests will enable communities to request control of public sector assets in their area in order to address local needs and deliver community benefit. These assets could be land and buildings from forests to schools, hospitals or waterworks.
There will also be a new statutory duty on local authorities to establish and maintain a register of all property held by them for the common good; new duties in relation to allotments; and a new power to allow councils to create localised relief schemes for non-domestic rats to reflect local needs and support communities.
Committee convener, Kevin Stewart MSP said: "The committee wants to ensure that communities across Scotland feel able to take advantage of the provisions of the bill, as we know that there has been a huge amount of interest in these proposals from across the country.
“We want to hear from everyone who has an interest in, or is affected by, community empowerment to find out if this bill really will deliver power to communities.”
Click here to view the call for evidence. Responses are due by 5pm on 5 September 2014.