Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015
The Act and Aberdeenshire Council - The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 gained royal assent in July 2015 and places formal duties on councils and other public bodies to allow communities to have a greater input on decision making which will influence the nature of local services. This will be based upon existing good practice; Aberdeenshire already has a positive reputation for responding to its communities and their expressed needs, and also for supporting communities to develop and enhance their own capacity to get involved or do things for themselves. The Act has 11 main parts: key requirements for councils relate to:
o National Outcomes,
o Community Planning,
o Participation Requests,
o Community rights to buy land - modifies Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003,
o Asset Transfer Requests (commonly known as Community Asset Transfer),
o Common Good Property,
o Participation in Public Decision-Making; and
o Non-Domestic Rates.
Other parts of the Act, including Part 6, Delegation of Forestry Commissioners’ functions, and Part 7, Football Clubs, will have less impact on the council.
What does it mean in action?
Whilst the Act gives a clear steer on what is now expected to permit communities to become increasingly empowered, the details of how this will be implemented is still being considered.
There is ongoing work to prepare the council to face changes which may be required, coordinated at a Head of Service / Area Manager level by an Officers’ Steering Group, chaired by the Head of Customer Communication and Improvement. Officer responses to consultations have been submitted on three elements of the Act ( Community Planning, Participation Requests and Asset Transfer Requests), but the full implications of what is required of the council will not be known until guidance is issued by the Scottish Government.
It is anticipated that this will be issued later in 2016. When available, we will be actively involved in the national development of regulations and guidance, either through the wider consultations, or our participation in expert working groups and professional bodies. From this, it will be determined how the council’s own policies and procedures will need to be revised, or developed, to enable implementation of the Act as intended. In the interim, work continues; the council’s Community Asset Transfer policy (in place and used by communities successfully for several years to benefit local areas) has recently been reviewed and refreshed, with input from community bodies. The revised policy was approved by Policy & Resources Committee on 21 April, 2016.
Although much of the council’s response to the legislation will be the further development of existing practices, some new approaches have already been implemented, such as participatory budgeting. “Your Voice, Your Choice” has piloted in Peterhead and Fraserburgh. In June 2016, “Your Voice, Your Choice” participatory budgeting events were piloted in Peterhead and Fraserburgh. These were successful in engaging with communities, through empowered local groups, to identify projects which would receive funding to assist with their local delivery.
The council welcomes the formalisation of what, in most cases, was already its ideal way of working with the people of Aberdeenshire, both geographical and in communities of interest (for example a shared identity through race, religion, age or experience) linked together by an interest in meeting locally expressed needs. The new legislation will allow us to further develop this, with officers from a number of council services continuing to provide communities, geographical or of interest, with support to become empowered.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get involved?
In the first instance, contact your local area office – contact details are listed here. We are working to ensure that, as soon as possible, any officer of the Council would be able to direct your enquiry to an appropriate officer.
What kind of things have happened already?
The council have already worked with communities on a range of projects, varying in scale and in subject matter, across Aberdeenshire. Case studies include, community run publicly accessible toilets at Whitehills and Kincardine O’Neil (<insert link>), allotments / community green space, sports centres such as Macbi at Mintlaw, and the award winning Westhill Men’s Shed.
Where can I find out more?
Scottish Government Consultations https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/
Scottish Community Development Centre http://www.scdc.org.uk/
Scottish Co-Production Network (SCN) http://www.coproductionscotland.org.uk/
Participatory Budgeting in Scotland http://pbscotland.scot/