This will af­fect us all

The Galloway News - - GALLOW@Y VIEW -

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

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