Publication - Minutes

National Asset Transfer Action Group: October 2020

Published: 1 Feb 2021
Date of meeting: 28 Oct 2020
Location: Microsoft Teams

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 October 2020.

Published:
1 Feb 2021
National Asset Transfer Action Group: October 2020

Attendees and apologies

  • Kathleen Glazik (Chair), Scottish Government
  • Malcolm Cowie, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Rebekah Dundas, Scottish Land Fund
  • Linda Gillespie, Community Ownership Support Service
  • Rebecca Carr, Forestry and Land Scotland
  • Maureen Burgess, Fife Voluntary Action
  • Christine Clarke, Dumfries and Galloway Third Sector Interface
  • Pauline Bradshaw, Glasgow City Council
  • Allan Roberts, Transport Scotland
  • Alex Byers, City Life Glasgow
  • Richard Kelly, Glasgow City Council
  • Jillian Matthew, Audit Scotland
  • Philip Prentice, Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Sandra Holmes, Highland and Islands Enterprise
  • Sarah Baird, South Ayrshire Council
  • Euan Campbell, Scottish Government
  • Kate Kilpatrick, Scottish Government
  • Jen Swan, Scottish Government (Digital Support)
  • Professor Artur Steiner, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Dr Carolyn MacMillan, Glasgow Caledonian University

Apologies:

  • Angus Hardie – Scottish Community Alliance

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the group and apologies were noted. The Chair provided a brief summary highlighting that nearly four years after asset transfer legislation came into force in January 2017, that around 250 applications have been made and the majority of those are to local authorities. During that time much has been learned but the Scottish Government relies on relevant authorities completing statutory annual figures to capture national data. Unfortunately, this is not the case as from the 95 Relevant Authorities currently on the designation list, just over half reported on asset transfer activity in 2019/20.

The Chair commented that there is a lot of interest in asset transfer and that the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee is currently scrutinising Parts 3 and 5 of the Community Empowerment Act - Participation Requests and Asset Transfer.

The Chair informed the group that Catriona Maclean would be joining the Public Service Reform, Public Bodies and Third Service Division as new Deputy Director on 9 November. Catriona was Head of SG Rural Economy and Communities Division and would therefore have a good understanding of asset transfer.

Each group member introduced themselves and provided their main reason for joining and their particular interest in asset transfer. The group’s wide range of experience was clear with members highlighting their knowledge of asset transfer practice, including the increased amounts of asset transfer applications to the Scottish Land Fund (approx. 40% of all applications) and the emergence of good local partnership work with relevant authorities and partners to support the process.

The willingness to learn from others experiences and the desire to better understand the asset transfer process became clear as reasons for joining the group, as was the wish for more guidance and support.

Overview

The Chair outlined that the group’s purpose is to consider:

  • the findings and recommendations from Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) evaluation report and propose actions for the short, medium and long term
  • the learning from asset transfer activity over the last few years, the challenges and opportunities it presents
  • what actions need to be taken more broadly, and by whom, to ensure that asset transfer is achieving its goal to drive change and empower communities

The group will discuss and collectively agree what proposed actions are needed based on the above and intelligence gathering in the coming months.

Presentation: Findings and recommendations of the evaluation report on Asset Transfer activity

Professor Artur Steiner and Dr Carolyn MacMillan from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) delivered a PowerPoint presentation on the findings and recommendations of the three year evaluation final report: “Asset Transfer Requests: Evaluation of Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015” which was published on 30 July 2020. The presentation (attached separately) was well received and was followed by a Q and A session.

The presentation highlighted the work of the three year GCU evaluation that reviewed the relevant authority annual reports from 2017/18 and 2018/19; interviewed a range of asset transfer stakeholders; conducted case studies of those who had engaged in the asset transfer process; and developed an analytical framework of theory of change to help better understand the outcome process.

Their work showed that asset transfer activity is increasing year on year, however the overall response rate from relevant authorities is decreasing. 64% of relevant authorities responded in 2017/18, falling to 43% in 2018/19. Local Authorities are awarding the most asset transfer requests (84% in 2017/18 and 79% in 2018/19) however not all relevant authorities are reporting annually which made drawing conclusions and identifying trends challenging.

The Scottish Government Community Empowerment Team has developed with partners an annual reporting template for asset transfer activity which was used for the first time in 2019/20. This has resulted in an overall relevant authority response rate of 50% for 2019/20 reporting (an increase from the 43% in 2018/19).

GCU research highlighted asset transfers have the potential for increased community empowerment including increased local democracy and public participation, and increased confidence in the community. The evaluation also looked at possible reductions to inequality of outcomes and found that most asset transfers came from higher capacity groups. GCU research suggested that resources are required to support communities that do not have the capacity to engage with the process.

The research outlined recommendations for Scottish Government including continued monitoring of Part 5 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015; continued evaluation of the policy and reporting arrangements; work with stakeholders to establish best value models; and to address barriers that marginalised groups face when engaging with the process.

GCU research also included recommendations for the relevant authorities: to promote asset transfers more widely; to ensure they have transparent timelines for considering these; to have a key point of contact identified within their organisation knowledgeable on the process; to develop processes to best calculate value and discount; and to better support disadvantaged communities.

The GCU presentation concluded that asset transfer requests may help address inequalities and support communities to deliver better and more relevant services which is welcomed.

Breakout groups

As an opportunity for members to get to know each other a bit better and to have more focused conversations, the group divided into three breakout groups with three questions for discussion as follows:

  • what’s working well
  • what are the challenges
  • what are the three top priorities for action for the group?

There were some common themes that emerged over the three breakout groups, including the need for key personnel to be in place in the relevant authorities who understand the legislation and can link people up to support the process; the need to better understand calculating discount, value, and conditionality; and the value of sharing information and supporting each other through the process and
learning from others experiences. Responses are summarised in the following table.

Question 1: What’s working well?

Group 1: facilitator – Kathleen

  • When possible a key point of contact for AT at the relevant authority makes a big difference
  • support from SG Policy team is helpful and welcomed
  • guidance documents are well used
  • support from COSS

Group 2: facilitator – Euan

  • local partnerships supporting each other
  • increased awareness of asset transfer legislation amongst communities and RA’s are starting to develop joined up approaches to handle requests
  • there is a willingness to discuss solutions to problems and to provide assistance

Group 3: facilitator - Malcolm

  • Community Transfer Bodies have more power/control over decisions and provides a legal mechanism for community groups
  • legislation is a driver for cultural change
  • there are already some examples of good relationships with LA’s and community groups
  • AT’s provide many community benefits and there has been an increase in applications to the SLF as a result of AT’s being submitted
  • considering the legislation is still relatively young, there has been a good number of AT’s submitted

Question 2: what are the challenges?

Group 1: facilitator – Kathleen

  • the need for key personnel (e.g. point of contact) to have the necessary skills/knowledge for AT’s
  • timescales to complete transfer using legislation

Group 2: facilitator – Euan

  • need for greater cohesion, address misunderstandings, and share information
  • need for a clear and effective method of scoring community benefit. Need to address lack of specialist support and need to raise awareness of AT’s amongst RA’s
  • use of discounts/ calculating value/ use of clawbacks
  • nervousness of some RA’s on how to make decision

Group 3: facilitator - Malcolm

  • staff dealing with the AT process in RA’s – often no single point of contact in place
  • calculating discount/ value
  • a need for longer term post acquisition support
  • conditionality – sometimes unfairly added on to AT’s
  • a need for a mechanism for RA’s to share information
  • need for greater community sector link up and community service delivery

Question 3: what are the top three priorities for action for this group?

Group 1: facilitator – Kathleen

  • how to calculate best value
  • how to calculate discount 
  • better understanding of available funding streams

Group 2: facilitator – Euan

  • improved communication channels/ tools, and aftercare support.
  • stronger national voice on asset transfer – to increase awareness and provide greater clarity to RA’s
  • efficient method of assessing value

Group 3: facilitator - Malcolm

  • sharing of good practice and developing better clearer guidance 
  • calculating value, and working out conditionality and accountability
  • better defined assessment framework for AT’s

Next steps

The Chair asked if there was anyone missing from these conversations who should be invited to attend future meetings. Suggestions were the NHS, Community Wealth Building and also SG Property Division who could discuss land transfers and their legal conditions. The Secretariat will follow this up.

Proposals for future information and presentations were:

  • a presentation from the Community Ownership Support Service
  • a presentation from the Scottish Land Commission
  • a relevant authority who could share their experience of considering an asset transfer
  • a case study of a group who has been through the asset transfer process

Date of next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting will be held in mid-January 2021, date to be confirmed.