Proposed new legislation to give power back to communities
We’re Right Here is a national campaign aiming to transfer power to communities through a new Act of Parliament.
Supported by prominent national organisations, such as Power to Change and Locality, We’re Right Here is seeking to address some of the biggest challenges facing the UK by calling for a Community Power Act. This Act seeks to alter the balance of power in the UK by empowering people to take action in their local communities to find solutions to problems like inequality, local decline and loneliness.
The proposed legislation is made up of three key elements, which are as follows:
- New community rights
The Act seeks to establish a new set of community rights to support local communities to take actions which determine the futures of their neighbourhoods. This includes a community right to buy that would give communities the right of first refusal once buildings and spaces with significant community value go up for sale, as well as community rights to shape public services and to control investment.
This builds upon existing powers under the Localism Act 2011 (covered in our earlier article here). Under the existing powers, communities may apply to have property or land listed as an asset of community value. If that building or land is subsequently put up for sale, a six month moratorium is imposed, which enables communities to gather funds together to make a bid for the asset.
The proposed legislation would entitle community groups to take possession of an asset of community value which is put up for sale, without facing competition, provided they raise the required funds within a moratorium period of twelve months. This is the most radical and potentially controversial part of the proposed Act, and is similar to rights which are already available to communities in Scotland.
- Community covenants
Community covenants would bring local authorities and stakeholders together to share power and make decisions. Once a covenant is agreed and approved, partners would gain access to new powers and resources relating to local economic planning, neighbourhood planning, community assets, service delivery and government funding streams. It is proposed that the Government will create a development fund for community covenants to draw upon as part of its levelling up agenda and to further unlock community power.
- Community Power Commissioner
This would be an independent office, tasked with upholding the new community rights, facilitating the formation of community covenants and unlocking community power as far as possible. In this way, the three elements of the Community Power Act are mutually complementary and reinforcing.
We’re Right Here argues this legislation is needed to unlock the potential of community power across the UK. It aims to tap into pre-existing community action and initiatives and inspire the development of new groups and projects. Although it is likely to be controversial with some landowners, if passed by Parliament, the Community Power Act could be a decisive moment in building community resilience and allowing people to genuinely and effectively shape the places where they live.
Wrigleys works with community groups of all shapes, sizes and legal structures across England and Wales. If you would like to discuss setting up a community group or are seeking advice for your existing organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.