New act will empower Falkirk communities

The act will allow community groups, like Brighten Up Bainsford and Langlees (BULB), pictured,  to take ownership of eyesores
The act will allow community groups, like Brighten Up Bainsford and Langlees (BULB), pictured, to take ownership of eyesores

Communities will soon be able to purchase local eye sores with a new act that gives more power to residents.

The Community Empowerment Act encourages decision making at a local level , giving them the right to better their areas.

One element of the act is the right to buy in both urban and rural areas. This means community groups could buy empty shop units of patches of waste land and make them into something that could benefit the local people.

A report on the act and the impact it would have in Falkirk was discussed at a meeting of Falkirk Council executive committee earlier this month.

The exact implications are still to be decided but the act would mean local authorities and public bodies will have a statutory duty to weigh up the benefits of transferring their land and buildings to communities. Instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups can put forward their case for why a community centre would be better run by the community itself. Local groups will also have the power to get involved in health or police discussions and it enhances the rights of football supporters to have a say in how their club is run.

The act also includes new legislation on allotments, making sure local authorities take steps to ensure there is an adequate supply of land for local people to lease.

The act stipulates the waiting list for an allotment should be no longer than five years – the current wait for a Falkirk space is ten years.

The council will need to look at additional sites for allotments to meet targets.

Speaking at the meeting, Stuart Ritchie said the real implications of the act were not yet known.

He said: “We don’t know exactly how this will affect the council. It has only just been passed and the further guidance is yet to be issued.

“But it is certain that this act will have a significant impact at a local level and will be more work for officers. The act requires more reports and for more information to be collated.

“We are yet to hear if there will be budget allowances to pay for extra staff.”

Council leader Craig Martin welcomed the report on the implication on the council .

He said: “This act was only passed in June so it is testament to our good officers that a report is with us already.

“It is still in the very early stages but this report has shed some light on how this will impact the council.”

SNP councillor Tom Coleman asked they take the report to the next full council meeting scheduled for October which was seconded by Councillor David Alexander however the executive committee opted to wait to receive further instruction from the Scottish Government on the exact implications the act will have.

Speaking after the vote to approve the Community Empowerment Bill Marco Biagi Minister for local government and community empowerment said: “This bill is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions and give people a stronger voice in their communities.”