Charities back more powers for communities

Committees head picture

‚ÄčLeading charities get behind Community Empowerment Bill 

13th March 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Campaigners have backed the decision by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee to support increasing the involvement of communities within local decision making.

The move comes after amendments were tabled by Scottish Labour’s Alex Rowley MSP to the Community Empowerment Bill.

While the bill allowed for communities to request to participate in improving the local area there was little they could do if a public body such as a local authority said no.

Rowley’s amendment means that where a community’s request to participate is refused by a public body they can then appeal to Scottish ministers to have the decision reviewed.

Communities should also be able to appeal where they have been granted the right to participate but have significant concerns about how the process is being undertaken.

As a result of the amendments the Scottish Government will be able to tell public bodies what support they should give to disadvantaged communities to get involved.

There must be safeguards in place for when things go wrong - Francis Stuart

Barnardo’s Scotland, the Poverty Alliance and Oxfam Scotland have been campaigning for the bill to be strengthened to give more power to communities which have long had too little influence over decisions affecting their area.

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland said: "We are delighted that the committee has agreed to Alex Rowley’s amendments. It was particularly important that communities were able to have a route to appeal a decision made by a public body that would effectively stop them from participating in processes to improve the local area.

“We know that many communities, community bodies and third sector organisations will be relieved that should there be a problem with the process there will be some sort of external scrutiny”.

Carla McCormack, policy and parliamentary officer with the Poverty Alliance said it was those communities which are disadvantaged and vulnerable which most needed to be involved in improving local outcomes.

“The amendments agreed by the committee will really help in making sure that this bill works for all communities,” she said.

Francis Stuart, research and policy adviser with Oxfam Scotland, added: “These amendments help to shift the balance of power between public bodies and local communities.

“Communities will now need to be supported to make participation requests and be consulted on the outcome of any improvements.

“While we don’t doubt the willingness of public bodies to improve outcomes for local communities there must be safeguards in place for when things go wrong.”