Increased powers for local communities considered for new bill

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URBAN communities across Scotland could be given greater opportunities to own their own land and buildings under ideas for a new bill.

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay has today launched a wide ranging consultation exploring how to give local people a more direct say in what happen in their communities.

Responses to the consultation will help shape the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Ideas being explored in the consulation include extending right to buy, similar to the one enjoyed by rural communities in Scotland to larger towns and cities.

This could allow people in urban Scotland to follow in the footsteps of recent successful community buyouts such as the former airbase at Machrihanish in Argyll.

The consultation also considers whether communities should have a right to ask to take on unused public sector assets such as school and health centres, and how communities can be more involved in making decisions on local budgets, helping public sector organisations identify the needs and priorities in an area and target budgets more effectively – an idea first piloted in Brazil and used in a number of European cities.

The consultation explores ideas designed to give people a better understanding of the public sector assets in their area, such as asking public sector authorities to publish a register of their assets and asset management plans.

The consultation also seeks views on giving communities the right to ask local authorities to repair dangerous buildings, and giving authorities better powers to recover the costs of repairs to these buildings, which will allow repairs to take place at an earlier stage and bring buildings back into use.

The consultation also looks at giving local authorities the power to enforce the sale or lease of empty homes, where the property is causing problems for neighbours or is in poor condition, or where there is high demand for housing in an area. The local authority would be entitled to recover its costs from the sale price or rent.

Launching the consultation today at the Community Central Halls, Maryhill, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said: “This Government believes that Scottish communities are a rich source of creativity and talent. Our people are our greatest asset.

“Travelling across Scotland I have seen at first hand the strong foundation of active communities we already have, and I want this proposed legislation to build on this.

“Today I am launching an open consultation on a proposed Bill which will support communities to achieve their own goals and aspirations through taking independent action and by having their voices heard in the decisions that affect their area.

“The ideas in this consultation are designed to strengthen community participation, unlock enterprising community development and renew our communities.

“We want to explore these ideas and see how we can remove bureaucratic barriers and develop a meaningful and effective legislative framework to support community activity.

“Working with our partners in Local Government, we will listen carefully to people’s views and ideas to help meet our shared goal of empowering more of Scotland’s communities.  The views we hear will help determine what we take forward in our draft Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.”

Welcoming the launch of the consultation, Ian Cooke, Director of Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) said: “DTAS welcomes the launch of the formal consultation process for the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

“As long-time advocates of community enterprise, community ownership and community-led regeneration, DTAS particularly welcomes those sections within the consultation document which address these areas, identify barriers and explore how these could be addressed.

“Some of the issues within the document are potentially challenging, but our initial impression is that the document is a balanced and well-rounded paper, and DTAS looks forward to engaging our membership, and the communities they represent, fully in the consultation process.”

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