This post is based on a LGiU members briefing (£) written by Michael Green.
On 4 February 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government issued a consultation paper “Proposals to introduce a Community Right to Buy-Assets of Community Value” (the consultation runs until the 3 May 2011)
The “right to buy” was previously referred to in the Coalition Agreement as”new powers and opportunities to help communities save local facilities”. This consultation runs parallel with another on the Community Right to Challenge (CRTB).
Aspects of community well-being and community cohesion come into play with this consultation. The government assumes that community trust will be fostered by successful use of the CRTB process. It also gives opportunities to improve uses for underused and redundant buildings, something which all local authorities would welcome. Where pro-active local authorities have existing asset registers they will find the process of adapting easier, especially if those existing lists already contain NHS assets also.
Other developments in the Localism Bill (£) are related to, and impact on, the CRTB. These include future proposals to allow council officers to form mutual’s. Whilst this consultation specifically indicates it does not apply to services it is clear it is part of a process where in the future varied and new groups may take over assets and services presently the domain of local authorities. It is the extent to which that is an agreed direction of travel or a contested one that is at the core of this and related proposals.
Local authorities may note the number of activities the CRTB process places on them and further note that the “one in one out” principle of burdens does not apply. They may also note that the consultation assumes extra costs will be covered by the local authority. Local authorities will accrue costs associated with developing the mechanisms required to list assets and to maintain and manage that list. They will also accrue advertising costs in promoting the new process when enacted and regularly from that point, to ensure the opportunity to list assets is taken. As already indicated local authorities will accrue the costs of assessing compensation claims and paying out.
If CRTB is relevant to your work, you may be interested in this forthcoming seminar we’re running – Rewriting the script: preparing overview and scrutiny for the ‘new localism’
The emergence of the new localism agenda and other governmental initiatives to restructure public service provision, coupled with severe budgetary restraints on local government, present both challenges and opportunities for overview and scrutiny.
The seminar will present an overview of the rapidly changing political, financial and institutional landscape for local authorities and public service providers and the potential impact on the work of overview and scrutiny committees. How can scrutiny rise to these challenges with fewer resources? What should its approach be and how can it continue to add value? What skills will non-executive councillors require? Speakers from two authorities will explain how overview and scrutiny is attempting to meet these new challenges in their area. A booking form can be found here