This summary sets out some of the key themes to emerge from the analysis of responses to a public consultation on Community Wealth Building (CWB) legislation.
In total 185 responses were received, of which 148 were from groups or organisations and 37 from individual members of the public. In addition, a public webinar was attended by more than 150 people.
General advancement of the CWB approach
The consultation paper explains that the Scottish Government wishes to explore which new powers, abilities and duties that will enable public bodies to have more influence in taking action to support CWB in their local area or region.
A majority of respondents (63% of those answering the question) favoured an approach which combines:
- A duty requiring Scottish Ministers and prescribed public sector bodies to embed the CWB model of economic development into their corporate plans and wider strategies; with
- A duty requiring those public sector bodies statutorily obliged to be involved in community planning to produce a collective CWB place-based strategy and action plan which contains specific actions across the five CWB pillars to advance the CWB model of economic development in their local authority area.
It was noted that this approach would build on the current arrangements in many areas, but should also promote wider buy-in and collective action. It was suggested that mandating public sector bodies to collaborate to produce a collective action plan may help embed the message that CWB economic activity is the responsibility of all and could yield greater leverage, increased opportunities and maximisation of assets. Overall, it was hoped that the combined approach would help ensure CWB has the best opportunity to enable a transformative impact on local economies across Scotland.
Which bodies should be covered by the proposals?
In terms of types of partnership or organisation that should be covered by a new duty, suggestions included Local Authorities, Community Planning Partnerships and all local and regional community planning partners, Health Boards, Health and Social Care Partnerships, Enterprise Agencies, Universities and Colleges, Community Councils, Third Sector Interfaces and Local Development Trusts.
There were calls for a clear list of organisations who are bound by a CWB duty, together with clear expectations of the requirements of the duty.
A number of respondents commented on the involvement of local communities, businesses and the third sector, and there was a view that for CWB to succeed there needs to be a true spirit of co-operation and partnership between public bodies and the wider community. In terms of how this genuine partnership can be achieved, suggestions included that community anchor organisations must be seen as key players in any local anchor networks, and that a culture of collaboration and partnership is required. Respondents also commented on the importance of ensuring that approaches are inclusive of a broad range of types of people and organisations.
Accountability for implementation
General comments included that transparency is key to the future of CWB in Scotland and that, if the Scottish Government is serious about mainstreaming CWB principles, it is essential that Scottish Ministers and public sector bodies, are held to account. One suggestion was that Scottish Ministers should produce a high-level CWB Statement, similar to the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement created by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. A number of respondents were looking for the introduction of a CWB Commission to drive forward the embedding of CWB in policy, and to provide accountability and oversight.
Some respondents referred to existing reporting mechanisms through which CWB-related progress is already, or could be, channelled. These included Council's Corporate Performance Monitoring frameworks and reporting for the National Performance Framework; this was connected to a suggestion that, where possible, any reporting should be incorporated within existing public sector reporting duties.
Guidance on a duty
A substantial majority (86% of those answering the question), thought guidance would be helpful to partners in meeting the proposed duty. Further comments included that legislation will only be successful if it is accompanied by guidance, support and capacity building that allows those public bodies affected by new duties to implement them effectively.
Of those who expressed a preference for statutory or non-statutory guidance, most favoured the statutory route. It was suggested that this would give the necessary weight to drive implementation and would promote consistency of approach across Scotland. Those who preferred a non-statutory approach often suggested that it would allow local areas greater freedom to decide how they implement CWB in a way that is appropriate for them.
Non-legislative measures to accelerate the implementation of CWB
The current policy landscape
The complexity of the current policy and legislative landscape was noted, and it was suggested that there may be an opportunity to consolidate the legislative framework underpinning CWB and community empowerment.
There were calls for a comprehensive approach to considering the interconnectivity of existing legislation, with a focus on promoting simplification and resource-efficiency. In terms of particular policy areas, it was seen as important to align the CWB framework closely with Scottish Government's ambitions for nature and climate. Making these links was seen as key to delivering a range of environmental, economic and social benefits, and to ensuring that the aims and objectives of advancing CWB are congruent with the Just Transition to Net Zero.
Changes to the economic development culture
Building a culture of trust and collaboration between community organisations and their local authorities was seen as the foundation for better partnership working of the type required to deliver on CWB's objectives. Leadership at all levels was also identified as a key factor, and it was suggested that this needs to start with political leadership and the mobilisation of all of Scotland's public sector.
Genuine partnership and capacity building
One of the most commonly raised themes across the consultation was the critical role that genuine collaboration will play in making CWB a success. It was suggested that the legitimacy of CWB is directly proportional to the extent to which community stakeholders are meaningfully engaged and empowered as active participants.
The vital role of capacity building, particularly for communities, was noted and the recognition that this will be particularly important for disadvantaged communities was welcomed. There were also comments about building capacity within organisations, including within local authorities and public bodies.
Resources and funding
The issue of resources was often linked to capacity building, both within organisations and within the wider community; it was suggested that investing in training and education programmes, as well as providing technical assistance to communities and public institutions, can help build the necessary capacity to implement CWB approaches.
More generally, the theme of resources was also a frequently raised issue across the consultation. A number of respondents referred to the challenging financial environment in which the public, community and voluntary sectors are working, described as being typified by increasing demand and reduced budgets. There was a view that, particularly given this context, a structural transformation of the scale envisaged in the consultation paper is likely to require significant additional resources, both to build skills and capacity and also to support programmes and initiatives. However, it was also noted that, especially as economic development is not a statutory service, its importance needs to be recognised to protect funding, empower local authorities and ensure they have appropriate resources and capacity to deliver CWB, particularly if there is a CWB duty.
In addition to comments about local government and anchor organisations, respondents also commented on resourcing issues affecting other sectors, including that the third and community sectors will require additional resources to engage with the design and delivery of CWB locally.
Themes raised in relation to the five pillars
The consultation went on to ask questions in relation to each of the five pillars of CWB (spending, workforce, land and property, inclusive ownership and finance). Responses were often extensive and detailed, and the main report provides an overview of the range of legislative, policy and practical suggestions received. A small number of the key themes raised are summarised here.
Reviewing procurement frameworks and approaches: There were calls for a rebalancing of the priorities and criteria used in public procurement, for example to prioritise CWB over cost and other considerations, and a number of respondents wished to see additional guidance on how CWB and community benefits are expected to fit within wider procurement legislation. This was most commonly related to how CWB can be balanced with the duty on public bodies to ensure best value. A number of those commenting saw potential for review of existing frameworks and contracts to identify how these can better facilitate access by SMEs, the third sector and supported businesses. This most frequently related to changes to current procurement regulations to enable frameworks and contracts that support local procurement.
Developing supplier capacity: Building capacity within local supply bases, including private sector micro and small businesses, social enterprises, community owned businesses and the third sector, was seen as key. There was thought to be a need for procurement legislation and regulation to better recognise the potential value of these organisations, and there were also calls for dedicated procurement support for local organisations.
Commitment to Fair Work practices and paying at least the real Living Wage: CWB was seen as offering a significant opportunity to achieved better recognition and protection for Scotland's workforce, with the potential for Fair Work to support wider economic priorities also highlighted. There was widespread support for efforts to encourage more employers – including specifically anchor organisations – to pay at least the real Living Wage.
Reviewing compulsory purchase powers: Proposals to review compulsory purchase powers were welcomed, with suggestions that the present Compulsory Purchase Order process needs to be streamlined or modernised.
Tackling vacant and derelict land (VDL): It was argued that further action will be required if VDL is to contribute to CWB objectives and there were calls for enhanced powers and funding, and for simplified or longer-term funding streams for local authorities to bring VDL back into use. There were also calls for better or more sustainable use of the public estate (including both VDL and other assets) for community and SME use.
Ensuring alignment between CWB and other land rights legislation: Some respondents called for clear alignment of CWB legislation with the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and/or the Land Reform Bill. There were also calls to review or strengthen Community Right to Buy powers and to simplify and speed up Community Asset Transfer processes, including to allow a wider range of community bodies to use the provisions.
Working towards an employee right to buy when a business is put up for sale: While there was acknowledgement of the difficulties in legislating on reserved matters, some respondents indicated their support for an employee right to buy, calling on the Scottish Government to work with the UK Government to enable its introduction or to investigate the extent to which powers could be used within devolved competences.
Funding assessment criteria: In support of the use of funding criteria and conditionality of public funding, respondents referred to the potential for this approach to create community wealth and deliver wider benefits for communities. In this context, it was suggested that all public funding applications should be required to evidence positive impacts across the five CWB pillars.
Financing options, including progressive financing: Respondents proposed a range of ways in which pension funds, other public funds and social investment could better support CWB. Respondents also referred to a potential role for the Scottish National Investment Bank or a national CWB or Community Wealth Fund, similar to the Scottish Land Fund.
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