Law gives Midlothian residents a greater voice

Laws have come into effect giving people more say
Laws have come into effect giving people more say

A new law aimed at giving communities more say in the decisions that affect them has been introduced by the Scottish Government.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act asks public bodies to make sure they listen to what communities want and is currently being implemented by Midlothian Council.

A report presented to a full meeting of the council recently updated councillors on progress. To encourage greater community engagement, a new webpage has been set up at www.midlothian.gov.uk/yourcommunity This includes details of how to contact your local Community Officer, how to get involved in local groups and help make decisions about funding community projects.

If a community group has an idea to make services better, they can also now make what’s known as a ‘participation request’ to the council, provided it’s about a service they run. The council will listen to the idea and talk to the group about how it might work before deciding to either agree or refuse the request.

Under the new law, community groups can also make an ‘asset transfer request’ for any land or buildings that the council or any other relevant authority owns, or rents. Relevant authorities also include the Scottish Government, health boards and some other bodies. They must listen to what the community group wants to do with the land or building before making a decision on whether or not the transfer will be allowed.

The council’s cabinet member for communities, councillor Russell Imrie, welcomed the progress being made. He said: “Midlothian Council is already working closely with its communities to make sure the services we provide meet people’s needs within current budgetary constraints.

“The new Community Empowerment Act places additional legal duties on the council and its partners to give local groups greater involvement in how services are delivered in their area and we are committed to making it work. In particular, we want to support people who in the past found it difficult to get involved in their communities or to take part in local decision making.”