The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 (Commencement No 2) Order 2015 brought into force, on 13 November 2015, certain parts of the 2015 Act including those permitting the issue of guidance about the Community Planning provisions in Part 2 of the Act. The 2015 Act provides for a new statutory scheme for Community Planning by local authorities and other public bodies.
Community Planning before the 2015 Act
Community Planning ("CP") is not a new concept or activity; it already has a statutory footing under the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. Whilst CP already happens in many places across Scotland, in 2011 the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services reported to the Scottish Ministers that some areas were thought not to have done particularly well in terms of this engagement. A need was identified to move way from "top down" provision of services to make this more community led.
The 2015 Act leads on from this report to set up a new statutory scheme for CP which is intended to bolster the duties on public bodies and to improve community empowerment and engagement.
Community Planning under the 2015 Act
The CP provisions of the 2015 Act:
- give Community Planning Partnerships ("CPPs") a statutory basis and;
- impose duties on those CPPs relative to the planning and delivery of local outcomes, which include obligations to involve community bodies at all stages of CP.
A CPP will require to be set up in each of the 32 local council areas in Scotland.
The CPPs will involve a number of public service providers working together and with their communities to meet the needs of those communities.
The public service providers will be from local authorities, health boards, police, fire, transport services, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise as well as organisations such as Scottish National Heritage.
Involvement of community bodies
CPPs must consider which community bodies are likely to be able to contribute to CP, having regard in particular to which of those bodies represent the interests of persons who experience inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.
CPPs then need to make all reasonable efforts to secure the participation of those community bodies and, to the extent that the bodies wish to participate, to take such steps as are reasonable to enable them to participate in CP.
When the further guidelines regarding CP are issued under the 2015 Act, I would expect that they will require public bodies to be much more proactive in community empowerment.
Land and buildings and the 2015 Act
Specific to property, it seems likely the guidelines will impose a duty on each CPP to consider potential community uses for any properties that are no longer used by the public bodies that make up that CPP. So this will require CPPs to be proactive in community empowerment, in addition to being reactive to Asset Transfer Requests from community bodies.
Such engagement will hopefully, in time, lead to a regeneration of publically owned properties and land for outcomes that already have the support of their communities - that could only be a positive outcome.