New Year, new powers for communities?

Posted on 04/01/2014 by

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Plans for greater local decision making

Have your say by 24 January

Communities across Scotland will enjoy greater decision making powers over the use of public sector land and buildings following the introduction of a new bill to Holyrood this year.

A consultation is currently taking place on The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which will allow communities to identify and ask for any public sector land or buildings they feel they could make better use of than its current owner.

And decisions over whether such assets should be transferred will be based on which proposed use would provide the greatest community benefit.

A consultation on the bill was launched by Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay in November, and interested parties are being urged to submit their views before the consultation closes on January 24.

In addition to the proposed measures to improve decision making powers for communities, legislation will also be updated and simplified to support local authorities’ provision and management of allotments.

Local authorities will have a duty to provide allotments linked to and triggered by actual demand, and to protect permanent allotment sites from closure.

While current allotment provision is not sufficient to satisfy demand, the local authority will be under a duty to keep waiting lists below a specified target whether by acquiring land or otherwise.

There will be new duties to strengthen Community Planning, so that public sector agencies work as one to deliver better outcomes for communities.

Views will also be invited on how communities might benefit from legislation to improve the national and local focus on improving outcomes, currently implemented through Scotland Performs.

The bill also proposes:

  • Streamlining and extending the existing community right to buy to cover urban and rural communities as part of our ambition to have 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020
  • Providing new powers to help councils deal with defective and dangerous buildings, and to provide local relief schemes on business rates
  • Increasing transparency about the management and use of Common Good assets.

Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay said: “Scotland’s people are its greatest asset, and it is only with the confidence that comes with independence that people will be able to fully determine their own futures.

“The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is about people and communities taking their own decisions about their future, and its introduction will build on the support of the Scottish Government, set out by the First Minister in the Lerwick Declaration, for subsidiarity and local decision making.

“The Bill will help community groups to take over public land and buildings where they think they can make better use of them than their current public sector owners.

“This Bill will also reform the community right to buy, giving urban communities in Scotland the same rights as rural communities, where it is in the public interest.

“Rules on Scotland’s allotments will also be simplified. Allotments foster a community spirit and provide a range of benefits such as a cheap source of fruit and vegetables, and therefore a healthy diet.

“The consultation on the bill comes to an end on January 24th, so there is still time left for interested parties to submit their views on this important piece of legislation.”

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill Consultation document can be found at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/Current

ScParl

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