The following has been taken from the latest Community Development Alliance Scotland newsletter…

Responses to Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill

The Scottish Government has published the 447 consultation responses to the consultation on a Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill, and an independent report analysing all the responses. An easy read version of the analysis is currently being prepared and will shortly be available.CERB

Highlights of the analysis include:

Community Planning and Community Engagement

The responses highlighted that communities and their representative bodies often feel isolated from the Community Planning process and do not feel that they have much influence in decision making processes.

Many respondents from across stakeholder groups felt that there was a need to rationalise or streamline the existing duties, as there were too many and this was a source of confusion. While a majority were in favour of the existing duties being replaced by an overarching duty to engage, some (including many community planning partnerships and local authorities) felt that this would not be necessary if the existing duties were strengthened and appropriately resourced

Community Councils

Many respondents recognised the important role that community councils currently play in acting as an interface between communities and local authorities and other public bodies. Some respondents, however, questioned the capacity of some community councils to fulfil this role adequately, Some respondents felt that existing structures for community councils might no longer be fit for purpose and suggested that there was a need to revisit the existing legislation with a view to modernising these structures. Many commented that often community organisations other than community councils played a more active role in communities. Most respondents generally did not favour community councils in their current form delivering services.

National Standards

A clear majority of respondents supported the proposal that there should be a duty placed on the public sector to follow the National Standards for Community Engagement. Some suggested that the Standards should be reviewed and brought up to date

Community Engagement Plans

A significant majority of respondents supported the proposal that there should be a duty placed on the public sector to publish and communicate community engagement plans. Local authorities and community planning partnerships were more ambivalent in their views on this particular proposal.

Community Service Delivery

Many felt that current procurement procedures often acted as a barrier. There was a degree of support among some respondents for community groups having a greater say in the design and management of local services rather than delivering them directly. There was also support for communities having the right to challenge service provision if they were not satisfied as a way of making service providers more accountable.

Community Directed Spending

A majority of respondents expressed their support for the principle that communities should have a greater role in budget decisions, Local authorities, while generally supportive of the proposal, highlighted a number of challenges. Some respondents were concerned that minority needs may be overlooked. Most of those responding felt that community councils should take the lead, although a number of other suggestions were made.

Community Right to Buy

The vast majority of respondents supported the proposal to introduce a community right to buy in urban areas, and felt that it should operate in the same way as rural areas. Some private sector respondents argued that the existence as well as the exercise of such a right would make already complex development riskier, and therefore less likely to happen.

Community Asset Transfer

There was fairly widespread support for the principle of transferring assets from public sector authorities to the community where a community organisation could demonstrate that it could bring about improved community or public benefit as a result. It was suggested that in any disposal of public sector assets, first refusal should be offered to the community.

According to the Community Empowerment team, Minister for Local Government and Planning Derek Mackay has made it clear that empowered communities are central to shaping a modern Scotland and to reforming our public services.  “We have heard a strong message throughout this consultation process that legislation is only one element that helps to empower communities. The proposals we take forward will seek to remove barriers, promote good practice and bring consistency in a number of areas that will help public services and local people to improve the social, economic and environmental outcomes for communities. We will consult on the legislative proposals in a draft Bill in Summer 2013 to help check we have got the detail right, before preparing a Bill for introduction to the Scottish Parliament in Winter 2013/14.”