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Community Transfers

The Local Government White Paper, 'Strong and Prosperous Communities' (2006), sets out a new relationship between Local Government and its communities and the reforms contained in this paper aim to give greater say over local services to the people who rely on and use them and also actively involve communities in service delivery.

The 'Making Assets Work, Quirk Review' (community management and ownership of public assets) sets out the clear benefits to local groups, which can own or manage public assets - such as community centres. Fundamentally, the review talks about giving local people a bigger stake in the future of their area. The Department of Communities and Local Government, in its response to the recommendations in the review, supports the need to 'monitor effectiveness of mechanisms in persuading local authorities to consider transferring management or ownership of assets to communities'.

The three principal conclusions from the Quirk Review are that:

1. Asset transfer should take place where it can realise social or community benefits, without risking wider public interest concerns.

2. The benefits of community ownership of assets can outweigh the risks involved, in appropriate circumstances, and

3. Risks can be minimised and managed by drawing on the experience of others.

There are clear implications for local authorities when considering transfer of the management or ownership to the community of one of its buildings. It is important to properly and thoroughly assess these implications.

The government's proposals for implementation of the Quirk findings fall into seven main areas as follows:

1. Raising awareness of the review findings and sharing ideas on how to apply them.

2. Demonstrating how Asset Transfer can be done.

3. Strengthening Bottom up pressure.

4. Developing Specialist Advice.

5. Resources.

6. Promoting the Benefits.

7. Reviewing Achievements and Measuring Success.

It is a responsibility of each Council to have a process/protocol to deal with calls for Community Transfer. The key factors in this process are the benefits to the local community from any transfer and the ability of any organization to be sustainable in its use of the asset and its benefits.

For a general overview Applicants are referred to the RICS Local Authority Management Best Practice Guide 01: Transfer of Assets to Community Ownership and Management.

Legislation

A General Disposal Consent (2003) exists for local authorities to sell property at less than best value or to lease at less than market rent, but only to improve the environmental, economic and social well-being of the area, up to a limit of £2 million difference. The GDC cannot be used on Housing Land and special consideration is required for Public Open Spaces. An important factor is the benefit and impact to the District and not just locally in the Town, Ward or Parish where the site/property lies.The Council is open to challenge if clear evidence of these benefits has not been considered in making any decision. The Best Value consideration must also be met as required by S123 of the Local Government Act 1972.

The Secretary of State has discretionary powers to direct local authorities and certain other specified public bodies to dispose of their interest in land and buildings, in response to a request from a member of the public ("public request to order disposal" or PROD). The aim of this is to deter public sector landowners from holding on to vacant land or derelict buildings unnecessarily.

Torridge District Council

The Council is fully supportive of Community Transfers and has set up a process to consider all approaches from the Community in a clear and transparent manner.

The Asset Transfer Process

1 Identification of asset

2 Submission of initial Proposal. (Stage One) This must be to an acceptable standard on word icon Form CT2 [219kb].

3 Valuation. To be made available to applicant.

4 Initial Assessment and Evaluation of Benefits. By Member Asset Management Group and feedback to applicant.

5 Submission of Detailed submission/Business Plan. (Stage Two) This must be to an acceptable standard as outlined by word icon Form CT3 [188kb]. For simpler schemes Stage One and Two could be combined to speed the process.

6 Consideration by Member Asset Management Group. Any feedback to be sent to applicant.

7 Consideration by Policy Performance and Resources Committee. This Committee will act as the Community Asset Transfer Panel with the final decision making powers.

8 Finalised by Legal Team.

9 Member Asset Management Group will monitor the process.

10 Appeals against decisions can be considered by the Council's Scrutiny Committee .

Assessment

All applications will be assessed on the same basis by the Corporate Property Manager, who will feed his views and assessments to Members for their information. This will include a site valuation and an assessment of Social Benefit.

Valuation (Social and Open Market)

Each property/site under consideration will be valued at it's existing open market value to establish it's value to the Council. This will be via the District Valuer or a qualified Valuer (Open Market value). Opportunity Value for future potential use/s of the site will also be considered.

Each Site will also be considered for Social Value based on existing uses and the enhanced community benefits that the applicant will bring by their operation or ownership of the site. To enable this the Applicant will need to supply information on the Community Benefit/s that will arise e.g. community participation by the main local target groups, use of volunteers, job creation or retention, enterprise start ups, involvement of other groups and agencies, training and skills, green issues/environment/habitats, accessibility, District Wide etc. (Social Valuation)

This Social Valuation will be taken into account in setting a value for the site related to the specific Business Plan. This value will represent the purchase price of the site/property to the applicant and be used for any General Disposal Consent as detailed below.

The Council will use a number of methods to value the social benefits and in particular may use the Devon County Council Social Value Tool to assist in decision-making.

Each Business Plan should include a Sustainability exercise to show that the non-purchase costs, i.e. day-to-day running costs of the site/property can be managed by the applicant. Typically this will be a Cash-Flow Balance Sheet for a period of one year on a month-by-month basis and two years on an indicative basis, but dependant on the nature of the site/property for complexity.

Where cost savings to the Council can be shown these can be taken into account in any evaluation.

Any Lease or Disposal will include the Council's standard terms and conditions. In the case of disposals the terms will include 'claw-back' conditions.