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Friday, 26 August 2011

Thanks to Hebden Bridge, Calderdale lead the way with asset transfer

Calderdale Council's Cabinet is to discuss ways to make it easier for groups to take over the running of assets and buildings that the Council no longer needs.

Members will discuss a proposal for a refreshed Framework for Community Management of Assets when they meet next Tuesday (August 30).

Calderdale Council drew up its original framework for the transfer of assets in April 2009 and has been at the forefront of community asset transfer ever since.

So far the council has transferred four assets to community groups across the borough, most notably Hebden Bridge Town Hall in April 2010. The council is also in the process of managing nearly 20 other applications and/or expressions of interest in community asset transfer, ranging from Hebden Bridge Picture House and land for allotments, to public toilets, community associations and social clubs .

A report to be considered by members says that since the original framework was drawn up in 2009, there has been increased interest from communities to manage local assets.

In addition, a key element in the Government's Localism Bill is the new "community right to buy", which aims to help community organisations take over and run local assets, giving them the 'first right of refusal' to acquire buildings and assets from both the public and the private sector.

The refreshed Framework for Community Management of Assets builds on learning from the experience of transferring complex assets and from best practice of other local authorities.

The proposed new process would:

  • Establish a single point of contact for groups and communities wishing to enquire about asset transfer
  • Develop an asset register, available to the public, telling groups and individuals what the council owns
  • Establish an initial gate keeping process to ensure that groups or communities know whether or not their proposals are viable before embarking on the whole asset transfer process
  • Make sure that the application procedure is more robust and has clear timescales
  • Greater transparency by making sure that when a community group applies to take over a council asset, the process is made public
    Build capacity in communities by looking at ways in which community groups can be guided through the process of asset transfer.

Calderdale Council's Cabinet Member, Safer and Stronger Communities, Cllr Pauline Nash, says the proposed new framework should make it easier for communities and groups to work with the council to take over the running of buildings, where it is appropriate.

"This council already has a great track record on asset transfer and has built up considerable experience of working with communities to ensure that they are able to take over and make the best use of council buildings and assets.

"But it can sometimes be quite a complex process, taking up valuable time and resources.

"The proposed refreshed Framework will be more transparent and make that process quicker and easier."

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