Publication - Research and analysis

Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015: asset transfer requests - evaluation

Published: 30 Jul 2020

Findings from an independent evaluation assessing the implementation of Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 – asset transfer requests. The evaluation was commissioned by the Scottish Government and was conducted by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University.

76 page PDF

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76 page PDF

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Contents
Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015: asset transfer requests - evaluation
4. Level of asset transfer request activity

76 page PDF

1.5 MB

4. Level of asset transfer request activity

This section presents data on the scope and scale of asset transfer request activities across Scotland between 2017 and 2019, detailing the reported figures and potential trends and common themes relating to asset transfer requests.

4.1. Annual reporting figures

Part 5 of the Act requires that relevant authorities publish annual reports detailing the activity undertaken in relation to asset transfer requests. Although there is no standardised form for reporting, the Act states that annual reports must include:

  • Number of asset transfer requests received
  • Number of asset transfer requests agreed
  • Number of asset transfer requests refused
  • Whether agreed asset transfer requests relate to ownership, lease or conferral of rights
  • Whether there have been any appeals and/or reviews and the outcomes
  • Action taken to promote asset transfer requests and to support communities to make asset transfer requests

In the following sections, we present data on the number of reports received in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Data from authorities classed as Scottish Ministers are reported separately from other relevant authority data. The rationale for this separation is provided at Section 4.1.2.

4.1.1. Relevant authorities (excluding Scottish Ministers)

This section reports on annual reporting figures of local authorities, health boards, regional transport partnerships, further education (colleges) and ‘other’ relevant authorities. Despite their statutory duty, in the periods 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, not all relevant authorities submitted annual reports. In 2017-2018, of the 86 relevant authorities required to publish asset transfer request activities, 55 submitted full reports or informal numeric data to the research team. Thirty-one (31) did not share any data. Therefore, 64% of relevant authorities submitted reports for the period 2017-2018. In 2018-19, of the 86 relevant authorities required to publish asset transfer request activities, 37 submitted full reports or informal numeric data to the research team, 43 did not share any data and six stated that they had no assets and queried their inclusion in the legislation (Table 6). Therefore, annual reports were received from 43% of relevant authorities in 2018-2019. This shows a reduction in the submission of annual reports and suggests that further work is required to ensure that organisations are aware of their duty to report and the importance of doing so.

Table 6 Data submitted by relevant authorities (excluding Scottish Ministers)
2017-2018 2018-2019
Report/ Informal data
submitted
RA reports it has no assets No response from RA Report/ Informal data
submitted
RA reports it has no assets No response from RA
Totals 55 0 31 37 6[11] 43

The response rates (including formal and informal submissions of asset transfer request data), broken down by relevant authority type, are provided at Table 7. The rate of reporting reduced across the periods for all relevant authority types. Note that five regional transport networks stated that they had no assets in 2018-2019, resulting in a considerable reduction in reporting.

Table 7 Response rate by relevant authority, formal reports and informal submissions
2017-2018 2018-2019
Local authorities 78% 69%
Health boards 50% 32%
Education 53% 27%
Transport networks 100% 14%
Other 40% 30%
Overall response rate 64% 43%

4.1.2. Relevant authorities – Scottish Ministers

The Act also specifies that land or buildings owned or in the care of Scottish Ministers are subject to the legislation[12]. Yet, despite inclusion in the list of relevant authorities, the number of Scottish Ministers submitting annual reports was low across both periods, particularly when compared to other relevant authorities. Scottish Ministers data is reported separately from the other relevant authorities in order to highlight the propensity for Scottish Ministers to query their inclusion in Part 5 of the Act and the need for clarification in defining ‘Scottish Ministers’ in relation to asset transfer requests. In 2018-19, there were 62 organisations on the list of Scottish Ministers. Table 8 shows that of these 62 organisations, five submitted full reports, four responded to state that the organisations held no assets and five queried whether or not they were covered by the Act. Forty-eight Scottish Ministers did not respond. These numbers are comparable to 2017-2018, where three Scottish Ministers submitted full reports, four indicated that they held no assets and 55 did not respond.

Table 8 Data submitted by Scottish Ministers
Annual reports 2017-2018 Annual reports 2018-2019
Report No assets Not an RA No response Report No assets Not an RA No response
Totals 3 4 0 55 5 4 5 48

In the subsequent sections, the numerical data derives from the annual reports and informal submissions collated through the evaluation, submitted by relevant authorities, including Scottish Ministers.

4.2. Number of asset transfer requests received 2017-2019

Table 9 summarises the number of asset transfer requests received, the types of relevant authorities which submitted each request (see Appendix 1 for types of relevant authorities) and the status of the request[13]. For the purpose of comparison, data are shown for both reporting periods.

Given inconsistencies in reporting, identifying exact levels of received asset transfer requests was problematic. The Scottish Government Guidance on asset transfer requests (2017) for relevant authorities outlines the procedure that a relevant authority should follow when it receives an asset transfer request. This procedure, which must be followed before a request is validated, details a number of steps for both the relevant authority and community transfer body to complete (see Appendix 2). However, for the period 2017-2018 it was unclear whether transfers had progressed to validation.

Table 9 Number of asset transfer requests across relevant authority types
RA type ATRs Received Agreed Refused Transfer Appeal Review
Year
17/
18
18/
19
17/
18
18/
19
17/
18
18/
19
17/
18
18/
19
17/
18
18/
19
17/
18
18/
19
Local authorities 49 64 31 39 3 6 1 8 - - 1 -
Health boards 2 6 - - - - - - - - - -
Further education (colleges) - - - - - - - - - - - -
Regional transport partnerships - - - - - - - - - - - -
Other - 5 - 1 - - - 1 - - - -
Scottish Ministers 7 6 2 8[14] 1 - - 6 - - 1 -
Totals 58 81 33 48 4 6 1 15 - - 2 -

In 2018-2019, 81 asset transfer requests were received across all the reporting relevant authorities, which suggests an increase in activity since 2017-2018 (n=58). However, due to the low levels of annual reporting about asset transfer requests by relevant authorities, this finding should be treated with caution. In 2018-2019, 48 applications were agreed and six were refused. Two relevant authorities reported that five asset transfer requests had been withdrawn and/or paused. This category was used inconsistently across the reports but is used here to understand the range of outcomes that follow the submission of an asset transfer request.

Further inconsistencies in reporting surround the introduction of a pre-application stage. The Scottish Government Guidance on asset transfer requests (2017) states that, as part of an asset transfer request process, an initial pre-application stage may be beneficial as ‘community bodies would then know whether they had support from the relevant authority before undertaking the substantial work to produce a full asset transfer request, or applying for funding’ (Scottish Government 2017, p.27). Where relevant, some relevant authorities reported on activity at the pre-application stage. In 2018-2019, 14 relevant authorities stated that they had asset transfer requests at pre-application stage, either in the form of a ‘stage 1’ application or an ‘expression of interest’. As five of these relevant authorities were yet to receive formal applications, a nil return under the headline figures does not mean that there is no interest nor activity related to asset transfer requests within those relevant authorities. Over time, it would be useful to explore the reasons that asset transfer requests do or do not progress from the pre-application stage, in order to understand some of the barriers and enablers of asset transfer requests.

4.2.1. Factors influencing low asset transfer request levels – nature of assets

According to some relevant authorities, a relatively low level of asset transfer request submissions is a result of the nature of their assets: for example, one relevant authority has assets that are mostly nature reserves in rural, isolated areas. The relevant authority considers that these are less attractive to communities when compared to buildings in close proximity to more urban areas. Similarly, a transport relevant authority (RA 7) argued that their assets are either excluded from the legislation (transport infrastructure), in full use, or of little value to community groups. Expanding on this last category, RA 7, which has received no asset transfer requests, states their assets are not necessarily suitable or desirable for asset transfer: they include small pockets of ‘insignificant’ land or transport turning circles.

“If we were to more widely advertise then it might generate an interest that, with the best will in the world, would just create an expectation that couldn’t really be met.” (RA 7)

Other stakeholders also noted that the majority of the assets owned by the relevant authority are used regularly and central to service delivery. As a result, it would be unlikely that an asset transfer could be offered:

“Our facilities are, in the main, utilised probably about 80-90% so we don’t have excess assets … we run night classes as well so it’s difficult to see where exactly it would all fit in to the bigger side, particularly in the asset transfer.” (RA 6)

4.3. Trends in asset transfer request activity

Using the data collected, this section presents some common themes and possible emerging trends in asset transfer request activities in terms of the focus on local authorities; geographical spread; types and the purpose of assets requested.

Local authorities received the highest number of asset transfer requests (n=49 (84%) and n=64 (79%) in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, respectively) (Table 9). Across both reporting periods, no applications were received by colleges or transport networks. Six applications were made to health boards and five to relevant authorities categorised as ‘other’. The significantly high numbers of asset transfer requests submitted to local authorities, in comparison with other relevant authorities, may suggest a need to raise awareness that public bodies other than local authorities -- including health boards and transport networks -- are also included within the asset transfer request legislation. This is an area that may require further exploration to understand asset transfer request trends in more detail.

Figure 2 shows that in the period 2017-2018, 31 requests were made for buildings (representing 53.4% of all requests in 2017-2018), compared to 22 (or 27.2%) in 2018-19. The number of requests for both land and buildings was 16 in 2018-2019 compared to 6 in 2017-18. Twenty-six requested assets (four in 2017-2018 and 22 in 2018-2019) were not categorised and are labelled as ‘no data available’.

Figure 2 Type of asset requested
Figure 2 Type of asset requested

Asset transfer requests were submitted by community groups to fulfil a range of intended purposes. The evaluation team developed a categorisation of the asset transfer requests according to their proposed purposes (Figure 3). In the period of 2017-2018, higher numbers of applications were made for assets for the purpose of community hubs (n=8), community parks/woodlands (n=8), and men’s/ community sheds (n=7). From the available data, in the period of 2018-2019, a high number of applications for assets for the purpose of running community hubs (n=17), community parks/woodlands/gardens (n=12) and sports/recreational facilities (n=11) were submitted. There has been consistent interest in assets for these purposes across both periods.

Other purposes include renovation of public toilets (n=2, in both periods), heritage/tourism (n=5 in 2017-2018 and n=4 in 2018-2019) and organisational programme delivery (n=6 in 2017-2018 and n=7 in 2018-2019). A new purpose which emerged in the 2018-2019 reports is affordable housing (n=3). Figure 3 also shows that the purpose of 35 assets (n=12 in 2017-2018 and n=23 in 2018-2019) was not provided; they are labelled as ‘purpose of asset transfer request not specified’.

Figure 3 Purpose of asset requested
Figure 3 Purpose of asset requested

The data presented here includes only the primary purpose of the asset, which provides a good overview of activity but does not show the full extent of how the assets are being or will be used. For example, a secondary purpose for many of the proposed community hubs was reported as an office space for the community transfer body. Another example of assets having multiple purposes relates to applications for the renovation of toilets: some included additional tourist facilities for campers. The applications for assets to help support organisational programme delivery included the extension of childcare services, social care facilities and environmental projects. Two asset transfer requests under ‘sports/ recreational facilities’ also intended to provide employability training programmes as part of the renovation and development of the buildings, while another asset transfer request intended to generate disparate benefits for three different groups of people. These examples show that there are a wide range of supplementary purposes beyond those illustrated at Figure 3, indicating real potential for asset transfers to have a positive impact on community access to services.

4.4. Geographical spread of asset transfer requests

Figure 4 Assets requested for transfer by postcode, 2017-2019
Figure 4 Assets requested for transfer by postcode, 2017-2019

The postcodes of assets listed in annual reports (2017-2018 and 2018-2019) were collated, including assets which were either accepted, refused, had no decision or withdrawn. These were mapped to explore the geographical spread of asset transfer request submissions. While there is a concentration of asset transfer requests in central Scotland, submissions were fairly wide spread (Figure 4). The light blue pinpoints denote assets listed in reporting period 2017-2018 and the darker blue pinpoints denote assets listed in reporting period 2018-2019. The postcodes of assets that have been accepted for transfer are mapped in mapped in Figure 5. The light blue pinpoints denote assets accepted for transfer in reporting period 2017-2018 and the darker blue pinpoints denote assets accepted for transfer in reporting period 2018-2019.

Figure 5 Assets accepted for transfer by postcode, 2017-2019
Figure 5 Assets accepted for transfer by postcode, 2017-2019

4.5. Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and asset transfer requests

SIMD is a relative measure of deprivation across Scotland. It can be used by organisations to target areas where they may have the biggest impact in terms of addressing specific inequalities. By drawing on available data from the annual reports and asset transfer request decision notices, it was possible to identify the postcode of the asset transfer requests in order to map them onto Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data. SIMD uses data related to employment, health, education, housing, access and crime to rank small geographical areas from most to least deprived. Whilst limitations surround SIMD[15], it does provide an indication of deprivation levels in areas where asset transfer requests are being applied. In turn, this may help better understand the potential for impacts on inequalities. Figure 6 displays the number of assets requested in each SIMD decile, with the most deprived areas being decile 1 and the least deprived being decile 10[16].

While the limited data makes it difficult to identify a clear pattern, available data suggests a spread of requests across areas of differing SIMD level. The numbers of asset transfer requests were significantly higher in the three most deprived deciles than in the three least deprived deciles. Given that requests are being made to transfer assets in relatively deprived areas, this indicates a potential for a positive impact on the local services available in more deprived communities. Future evaluations, considered over longer periods with a more comprehensive set of data, may consider this further.

Figure 6 Number of asset transfer requests by SIMD of asset location
Figure 6 Number of asset transfer requests by SIMD of asset location

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot