Publication - Minutes

National Asset Transfer Action Group minutes: March 2021

Published: 8 Sep 2021
Date of meeting: 23 Mar 2021
Location: Microsoft Teams

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 23 March 2021.

Published:
8 Sep 2021
National Asset Transfer Action Group minutes: March 2021

Attendees and apologies

Attendees:

  • Kathleen Glazik (Chair), Community Empowerment, Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Cowie (Secretariat), Community Empowerment, Scottish Government 
  • Euan Campbell, Community Empowerment, Scottish Government
  • Pauline Bradshaw, Glasgow City Council
  • Maureen Burgess, Fife Voluntary Action
  • Alex Byers, Glasgow Life
  • Rebecca Carr, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Christine Clarke, Dumfries and Galloway Third Sector Interface
  • Allison Coard, Planning and Environmental Appeals, Scottish Government
  • Lauren Cowling, NHS Grampian 
  • Linda Gillespie, Community Ownership Support Service
  • Angus Hardie, Scottish Community Alliance 
  • Sandra Holmes, Highland and Islands Enterprise
  • Martin McNicoll, Analytical Services, Scottish Government
  • David Mitchell, Property Division, Scottish Government
  • Caroline Monk, Charity Law, Scottish Government
  • Philip Prentice, Scotland’s Towns Partnership 
  • Lucile Rankin, Property Division, Scottish Government 
  • Allan Roberts, Transport Scotland
  • Dave Thomson, Community Land, Scottish Government

Apologies:

  • Rebekah Dundas, Scottish Land Fund
  • Helen Emery, NHS Highland
  • Gareth Evans, NHS Grampian
  • Jillian Matthew, Audit Scotland
  • Neil Mcinroy, Community Wealth Building, Scottish Government
  • Geraldine Campbell, Community Wealth Building, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions 

The Chair welcomed everyone and introduced Allison Coard, Planning and Environmental Appeals, Martin McNicoll, Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services and Caroline Monk, Charity Law, Third Sector Unit.

Apologies were noted.

Update on activity

Updates on activity since the last meeting was provided as follows:

The parliamentary Committee for Local Government and Communities published the report Community Empowerment: Taking Stock of Participation Requests and Asset Transfers Four Years On on 26th February 2021. There are 17 recommendations and 4 of those are specifically for asset transfer. The report highlighted the positive impact community control and ownership can have on people and their communities and both community groups and public bodies were generally positive about the Asset Transfer process. Key issues raised were the need for improved awareness, increased public authority buy in, better transparency of process particularly around ALEOs and higher levels of reporting. Then Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Communities responded to the committee in March 2021 and highlighted this group’s important role in helping inform action to respond to the recommendations.

Linda provided an update on the Managing Risk in Asset Transfer webinar event delivered by COSS on 25th February 2021. This was well received and attended by around 90 delegates and built on COSS’s Managing Risk in Asset Transfer Report published in December 2020. The Chair also highlighted continuing SG work on developing national guidance for calculating social value, and thanked members who have passed on comments to Malcolm on the draft social value paper previously shared with the group. These comments will be used to help inform national guidance on calculating social value for asset transfer which is currently being developed, and the group will be asked to comment further on this later in the year.  

Linda also updated the group on the Barmulloch, Glasgow asset transfer pilot which has been set up to explore whether an established, well connected and experienced community anchor organisation (Barmulloch Community Development Company) will be able to play a strong enabling and supporting role for early staged community organisations in areas of disadvantage.

The group were informed that SG has created a new public webpage for the National Asset Transfer Action Group. Members agreed that minutes from our meetings can be published online.

An update was provided to the group on work to merge the asset transfer and participation request shared SG email correspondence addresses, which now can be sent to the one address: Community.Empowerment@gov.scot

Minute of last meeting 

The minutes of the last meeting held on 14 January 2021 were agreed and have now been published on the National Asset Transfer Action Group SG webpage. 

Presentation: appeals process feedback 

Allison Coard, a Reporter from SG Department of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) provided an overview of how the DPEA Reporters consider asset transfer legislation Ministerial appeals. Allison provided a helpful and informative background to the group on the work of the DPEA including carrying out appeals under other environmental legislation, and the Reporters duties in providing Ministers with decisions and reports. 

She explained that Reporters were not specialists, and each case is unique, requiring its own tailored approach. Allison then talked through approaches taken for some of the asset transfer appeals already considered by the DPEA, and how their evaluation linked into the requirements of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 i.e. evaluation on Section 82 requirements of economic development, regeneration, health, wellbeing, etc.     

Allison concluded by reflecting on the sometimes long and complex nature of the received reports, the recognition that relevant authorities will assign their own criteria and approach to considering these, and the variation in the levels of detail provided to DPEA by the community transfer bodies and the relevant authorities to then evaluate. 

The group valued hearing first hand from Alison and shared their own experience of asset transfer and appeals. The session concluded with some general Q and A from the group.

Discussion: annual reporting requirements and template

Malcolm introduced a discussion of the relevant authority annual reporting process and requirements, highlighting their statutory responsibilities to report asset transfer activity and promotion each June, publish this activity on a public website, and list land and buildings in their care. 

The group was updated on work carried out by SG to increase low levels of annual reporting, including the annual reporting template developed for asset transfer activity created by SG and partners, and used for the first time last year (2019/20 reporting, due on 30th June 2020). This was issued with the request that relevant authorities completed and returned to SG, and saw annual reporting compliance improve from 42% in 2019 to 52% in 2020. 

Group members were then invited to discuss their reflections of this process, highlight any challenges, and comment on last year’s annual reporting template which had been shared with the group prior to this meeting. Suggestions were made on the current reporting template including clarifying dates as to when requests were received and cleared, noting that some ongoing asset transfer requests can roll over from previous years affecting the figures. The group asked for information to be included on asset transfers considered outwith the legislation, and the use of social return on investment tools to calculate social value.   

The group then discussed the various approaches to publishing asset transfer activity including assets transferred outwith the legislation and general asset disposals. The Chair confirmed that data would be made publicly available on the SG asset transfer website.  

Martin McNicoll, SG Analytical Services Researcher, joined the meeting and has an interest in data collected on public land use in Scotland. Martin provided suggestion on how to better capture asset transfer activity using the reporting template which highlighted further breakdown of activity. These amendments were included in the 2020/21 reporting template.   

Actions:

  • group members to send any further suggestions to the reporting template to SG in advance of the revised reporting template being issued (early June 2021), and SG to update template version 2 to reflect these changes, and issue to all 95 relevant authorities
  • SG to publish available annual reporting data on the National Asset Transfer Action Group webpage

Draft paper for discussion: designation to the community asset transfer relevant authority

Kathleen introduced the Arm’s Length Executive Organisations (ALEO) discussion paper shared with the group prior to the meeting which highlighted concerns raised by communities, COSS and the parliamentary committee. Kathleen was keen to highlight that the paper was not about Scotland’s 130 ALEO’s but about transparency of ownership for the approximately 10 ALEOs that manage assets on behalf of the local authority. The option of designating as a relevant authority was also discussed and an overview of the process and timescale involved was provided. COSLA was invited to attend the meeting but were unavailable and have asked to be kept informed.  

Alex Byers mentioned that as an ALEO, Glasgow Life consider themselves as part of the asset transfer landscape and they make every effort to work with their communities on use of their assets. Glasgow Life work closely with Glasgow City Council, and both Alex and Pauline Bradshaw are on the same asset transfer working group. Alex provided an update on the People Make Glasgow initiative and how they are looking at new ways to involve their communities in local decision making, including the use of public assets. 

The group acknowledged that many ALEOs were set up before the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 Act was put into force, and that trying to retrospectively impose asset transfer conditionality requirements of the Act on ALEOs would therefore have to take account of the various legal and commercial responsibilities that many ALEOs already operate within. 

Caroline Monk mentioned where charities are concerned any decisions around asset transfers will need to consider what is in the best interest of the charity. Trustees have a legal duty to make decisions in the interests of their charity. These may or may not align with the interests of the community.

Final discussion points highlighted there is no current convention or national organisation for ALEO’s; Leisure Trusts however do have a collective body in Community Leisure UK; and that the Accounts Commission is planning to look at ALEOs in 2022 and the impact of COVID-19. The Scottish Leisure Network Group was also highlighted to the group as part of this discussion.

Action:

  • SG to continue to develop work/advice on ALEO’s in consideration to asset transfer policy

Any other business

There was no other business.

Date of next meeting

The date of the next meeting is 22 July 2021 and follows the next round of relevant authority annual reporting due on 30 June 2021.