Community Asset Register and Community Right to Bid (Agenda item 12)
Report of Lynda Turner, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Community & Environmental Services.
The Assistant Director of Commissioning presented the report.
The Community Right to Bid (Assets of Community Value) was one of a raft of new initiatives that had been introduced through the Localism Act 2011 that came into force in late 2012. Breckland Council introduced a Community Right to Bid process and Community Asset Register in June 2013 following a Cabinet resolution. Due to the sparse amount of information and guidance received and with the legalisation considered to be unclear it was felt appropriate to take stock of what had been learnt thus far. Mark Stinson, the Council’s Legal Co-ordinator had identified a number of areas where the process and procedures employed by the Council could be improved. Additionally, processes applied by other authorities in the country were also looked at. In the light of detailed legal advice and following thorough investigations, new templates had been produced (attached at Appendix A of the report) which, if approved, would make the process much clearer.
The first recommendation was highlighted and the reasons behind it were explained. Members were informed that some decisions on listings had been contentious and had caused tension in the community; furthermore, it had been found that in some cases there had been a potential for a conflict of interest with the whole planning process particularly as it was currently administered by the Deputy Planning Manager. To avoid any future conflict of interest the report recommended that the Community Right to Bid and the Community Asset Register be administered by the Communities Team and that the listing of the decisions be taken by the Portfolio Holder for Community & Environmental Services, in consultation with the Assistant Director of Commissioning and the relevant Ward Member. It was suggested that the latter should be made plural to cover cases that had more than one Ward Member.
The Assistant Director of Commissioning highlighted the second recommendation and suggested some additional wording, , to read: “That the Monitoring Officer be given delegated authority to undertake reviews of listing decisions and for determination of reviews against any payment, or not, of compensation as prescribed in legislation (Localism Act 2011 and Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012).
An additional recommendation to reflect lessons learnt from other authorities was also proposed.
Referring to the level of compensation that had been capped at £20k per annum, Members were informed that if the compensation exceeded that amount, the Secretary of State would then have to be involved. The Monitoring Officer would be responsible for compensation matters.
The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development agreed that there had been a conflict of interest and these recommendations would actually dot the/ i’s and cross the/ t’s.
The Executive Member for Corporate Services & Quality Assurance agreed that some decisions could cause ill feelings which he felt was a downside of a well intentioned piece of legalisation.
Referring to the compensation element, a question was asked as to how the Council would know for definite if the owner had experienced a loss. Members were informed that the onus would be on the owner to work out any loss/costs incurred. It was noted that there was no prescriptive in the rules to determine what should be paid.
The Executive Member for Planning, Building Control & Housing asked how many owners had gone against the registering. The Assistant Director of Commissioning advised that four community assets had been registered since June 2013 and no formal appeals against the listings had been received; however, the Council did have in place one moratorium period for the Blue Lion in North Pickenham.
The Executive Member for Communications, Organisational Performance, Development & Public Protection raised one small technical point in relation to the Portfolio Holder being named in the recommendations, particularly as there had been several name changes in the recent past and suggested that the title should be removed and the word ‘responsible’ should be put before the Portfolio Holder. Members were informed that it was really important that the delegation was put in place as part of the recommendation. In response the Interim Chief Executive advised that the necessary wording would be included in the Constitution review.
The Executive Member for Finance & Democratic Services asked if there had been any situations where compensation had been accruing. It was noted that there had been none in Breckland Council. The Chairman raised concern that, in theory, the compensation amount could be swallowed up in the first claim. The Assistant Director of Commissioning agreed that it could as the legislation was quite un-prescriptive.
There was some discussion about the process in relation to whether a facility could be registered if a bid was received from the community. Members were informed that any community could apply for any asset on the list as it was a community right to bid not to buy; there was nothing precluding the community to attempt to list the facility as an asset.
Councillor Chapman-Allen referred to section 2.13 of the report where it was noted that any claims over £20k would be passed over to the Government to pay any additional costs.
The amendments to the first and second recommendations and the additional recommendation were agreed.
- To do nothing and to continue to administer the Community Right to Bid process and Community Asset Register in its current format.
- To change the processes and administration of the Community Right to Bid process and Community Asset Register so that: -
· the Portfolio Holder for Community and Environmental Services, in consultation with the Assistant Director of Commissioning and relevant Ward Member, be given delegated authority to determine whether an 'asset' should be listed;
· the Monitoring Officer be given delegated authority to undertake reviews of listing decisions; and
· the processes and procedures be amended to reflect those detailed in Appendix A of this report.
The recommendations reflected recent learning and experience at Breckland and legal advice subsequently commissioned. If implemented, the recommendations would ensure that Breckland had in place a thorough and robust Community Right to Bid process and Community Asset Register moving forward.
The amendments and the additional recommendation were agreed.
- delegated authority be given to the Portfolio Holder for Community & Environmental Services, in consultation with the Assistant Director of Commissioning and relevant Ward Member(s) to determine whether an ‘asset’ should be included on Breckland’s Community Asset Register.
- delegated authority be given to the Monitoring Officer to undertake reviews of listing decisions and for determination of reviews against any payment, or not, of compensation as prescribed in legislation (Localism Act 2011 and assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012);
- the processes and procedures employed by Breckland Council be amended to reflect those detailed in Appendix A of the report; and
- delegated authority be given to the Portfolio Holder for Community & Environmental Services in consultation with the Assistant Director of Commissioning and the S151 Officer to determine whether compensation be payable or not to the owner.