The Community Empowerment Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act on 24 July 2015. There are different parts to the Act, which will all come in to force at different times.
The Act will help to empower community groups through the ownership of land and buildings and by strengthening their voices in the decisions that matter to them. This summary gives information about the different parts of the Act.
What is the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015?
The Act is a new piece of legislation that gives communities additional rights. These are through:
having more say in how public services are planned and provided
owning or leasing land, assets and estate (through asset transfer and community right to buy)
becoming involved in improving the outcomes of services (e.g. participation requests)
What does this mean for me and my community?
It means that your community will have more say on public services and how they are planned. The Act also enables communities to be more involved in improving public services and gives communities rights to owning land.
There are 11 parts to the Act:
Scottish Ministers set goals for Scotland. Ministers will be required to consult on these goals and report progress on them at least every 5 years. This part of the Act came into force on 15 April 2016.
As a Community Planning Partnership, local public sector bodies (e.g. West Lothian Council, Police, NHS) are expected to work together and with local communities to improve services. This part of the Act came into force on 20 December 2016.
The Act specifies who needs to be involved in community planning. The West Lothian Community Planning Partnership (CPP) includes the following organisations:
- West Lothian Council
- NHS Lothian
- Police Scotland
- Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
- Scottish Enterprise
- West Lothian College
- Scotland's Rural College (Oatridge Campus)
- Integration Joint Board
- Jobcentre Plus
- West Lothian Leisure
- Skills Development Scotland
- Voluntary Sector Gateway West Lothian
- Youth Congress
- Scottish Water
- West Lothian Chamber of Commerce
- Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Historic Environment Scotland
CPPs are required to prepare a Local Outcomes Improvement Plan (LOIP) which will include the outcomes that are a priority for the CPP to improve on and the actions that will be taken in order to improve the outcomes. Community groups must be consulted when developing the LOIP. In West Lothian, this document is called the Single Outcome Agreement.
Locality plans will focus on the areas within West Lothian that experience poorer outcomes than elsewhere in the local authority area. In West Lothian, eight local regeneration plans are to be developed in the most deprived areas and these will be the CPP's locality plans.
If you have any questions on Community Planning you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org (01506 281086).
Community groups have been given the power to ask to be involved with local public sector bodies (e.g. West Lothian Council, Police and NHS) to improve services, where they think they can help to improve an outcome. (An outcome is the change that results from what organisations provide or deliver, e.g. increase in physical activity levels arising from the development of a community park. The increase in physical activity is the outcome.)
The Act sets out what kinds of community groups can submit a request and what information the group will have to provide. This part of the Act came into force on 1 April 2017.
More detailed information on the Council's process can be found on the Participation Requests page If you are interested in finding out more about participation requests you can contact email@example.com (01506 281086).
Community right to buy legislation now applies to any community right across West Lothian. This means that if the owner of land or a building decides to sell, they have to sell it to any community organisation which can afford to pay the market value, if Scottish Ministers agree. Community bodies must demonstrate that they have sufficient support from the wider community. Communities can now also buy land that is seen to be Abandoned, Neglected or Detrimental, where the seller is unwilling to sell. The Act also means that more types of community group can buy land in this way. Some provisions in this part of the Act came into force on 15 April with amendments to Part 2 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. Other provisions are likely to be implemented by spring 2017.
You can find out more on the Scottish Government's website: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Rural/rural-land/right-to-buy/Community
Community groups can now ask to buy, lease, manage or occupy any land or buildings owned or leased by public sector bodies. There are rules around who can make a requests and what information needs to be provided.
Public sector bodies must publish and maintain a list of assets that they own or lease and must publish an annual report about the asset transfer requests they have received, approved, rejected and appealed. This part came into force 23 January 2017.
If you want to find out more about asset transfer requests please visit the Asset Transfer page of the Council website or contact the Council's Asset Manager on 01506 281836.
The Act allows for different types of community groups to be involved in forestry leasing. This opportunity is available under the new Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) for Scotland's National Forest Estate.
You can find out more on the Forestry Commission Scotland website: Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) - Forestry Commission Scotland
This part of the Act gives Scottish Ministers power to make rules about the role supporters play with the clubs they support. Ministers have not decided when this part will come into force.
'Common good' property refers to the land, buildings, art and other things owned by local authorities that previously belonged to one of Scotland's burghs. The council will now be required to publish a list of common good property in West Lothian and to make sure that community councils and other community groups are consulted on any proposed changes. Draft guidance on this is to be issued following the 2017 local government elections.
This part of the Act makes the law about allotments easier to understand and sets out how waiting lists should be managed. Local authorities must take reasonable steps to address high demand. They must also develop a food growing strategy and publish an annual report on their allotment provision. Ministers have not decided when this part will come into force.
This part of the Act gives Scottish Ministers future powers to request that public authorities publicise and support the involvement of the community in the decisions and activities of the authority, including the allocation of resources. At the moment Ministers have not set out exactly what this will mean but have reserved the right to do so at a later date.
This part of the Act allows the Council to set local business rate relief schemes to better reflect local needs and support communities. This part of the Act came into force on 31st October 2015.
Where can I find out more information about the Community Empowerment Act?
If you have any queries that aren't dealt with here, please email the Community Planning team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01506 281086.
The full Act is available at: www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2015/6/contents
The explanatory notes can be downloaded from: www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2015/6/notes/contents