This will affect us all
Sir – Although Cliff Robertson’s letter (September 28) is about community development in Castle Douglas, it touches on changes which will affect every community in the Stewartry.
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act came into force last year, giving communities a right to buy derelict land and buildings.
This sounds good in theory but how will it work in practice? I took part in a very useful training day on community empowerment organised by Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway.
This inspired me to read up on the Community Empowerment Act. For the purposes of the act, a community can be a “community of interest” like a chamber of trade or a “community of place” like a community council.
To access the right to buy powers, a group must show it represents both forms of community. If Castle Douglas cannot do this, the community will be powerless to act, even if the Douglas Arms becomes a derelict eyesore.
The new act also strengthens community planning which will decide how all public services are targeted. With the council needing to cut up to £98 million from its budget by 2023, every community will be affected.
Local communities which are well organised will be able to influence the new and improved community planning process. Those which are not will miss out.
Until local government was reformed in 1974, communities in the Stewartry had responsibility for funding and organising public services through town and county councils. Control then passed to national and regional bodies which had bigger budgets.
As those budgets are cut, communities now face the hard task of relearning how to organise and fund vital public services. Put more bluntly, community empowerment is going to become an essential part of community survival. Alistair Livingston Castle Douglas