When developing an Asset Transfer Strategy/Policy guidance states that relevant authorities should be able to respond to enquiries and enter into open discussion at an early stage. There should be a transparent process in place for community groups to follow.
Start with a single point of contact, a person within the relevant authorities who understands the requirements of the Act. Be open to allowing communities groups to present an initial idea of what the project is about. Once initial discussion takes place, should a community wish to proceed to Asset Transfer Request under the Act, then the more costly detailed development of their plans can be developed and the Asset Transfer Request can then be made. The cost of this in depth development phase should be estimated in terms of volunteer time as well as costs for engaging professional services as the plan is developed.
This should be an option to discuss with an experienced members of staff. This step is about gathering basic details. It may be useful for staff to use a form to gather consistent information required, such as:
· group's structure and purpose
· their experience in project development and main activities
· their roots in the community
· identification of asset and reason for taking it on
· what benefits there will be for the local community
The relevant authority must provide information about the asset at this stage. Once initial discussions have taken place the group will be in a position to decide whether it is appropriate for them to move on to submit all the information required for an Asset Transfer Request under the Act. Alternatively the group may wish to proceed with transfer of the asset out with the requirements of the act if both sides are willing.
Asset Transfer Request
This stage will involve the group providing a wide range of information to support their application for an asset transfer. The information required is laid down in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and states: An asset transfer request must be made in writing and must include all of the information laid out in points A to O below:
A. state that it is an asset transfer request made under Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015
B. contain the name and contact address of the community transfer body
C. be accompanied by a copy of the constitution of the community transfer body
D. if the request is made by a body which is not a community controlled body, explain the basis on which the body is a community transfer body
E. specify the land to which the request relates
F. specify whether the request falls within paragraph (a), (b)(i) or (b)(ii) of section 79(2), ie whether it is a request for ownership, lease or other rights in the land
G. if the request is for ownership, specify the price that the community transfer body would be prepared to pay for the transfer of ownership of the land
H. if the request is for lease, specify the amount of rent that the community transfer body would be prepared to pay, the duration of the lease, and any other terms and conditions that the community transfer body considers should be included in any lease
I. if the request is for other rights, specify the nature and extent of the rights sought
J. specify any other terms or conditions applicable to the request
K. specify the reasons for making the request
L. describe how the community transfer body proposes that the land is to be used
M. specify the benefits which the community transfer body considers will arise if the authority were to agree to the request
N. outline how it is proposed that— · the transfer of ownership of the land, the lease of the land or the conferral of other rights in respect of the land on the community transfer body (as the case may be); and · the proposed use of the land, are to be funded
O. describe the level and nature of support for the request from the community to which the community transfer body relates.
Providing Support for Asset Transfer Requests
There are several ways the relevant authority can provide support at this stage. There are examples where dedicated staff work with groups to help them build a more robust request or to build their capacity. Other options include –
Creating a champion - It is important to a community group, and good practice for a relevant authority, to provide a single-gateway via a named main contact or champion. This contact would have responsibility for liaising on behalf of the community group within the different departments of the relevant authority.
Providing information on the asset – the relevant authority must be able to provide a property report for each asset to be transferred containing such information as the current condition of the building, the running costs of an asset, the costs of utilities, the current income from users, and the cost of other outgoings.
Providing templates – to help prepare useful business plans (but these are not stated as part of the requirements in the Act) or asset management plans. Be clear and refer to the guidance from Scottish Government about the information you require.
Providing support/expertise – to help build the capacity of a group (through e.g. a Community Learning and Development Team); to develop the Asset Transfer Request information (through Economic Development team); to give information on key policies; to advise on risk assessment frameworks; to supply funding information. Care should be taken to ensure that officers providing support have no conflict of interest in terms of their responsibilities to their relevant authority.
Providing links – to other local/national agencies and intermediaries who can also offer support in some of these areas.
There are obviously cost implications for a relevant authority of all of the considerations outlined above which need to be recognised and managed.