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November 14, 2007

Communities Scotland abolished

The community regeneration functions of the abolished Communities Scotland are to pass to local authorities – a welcome devolution of power. But the trick will be persuading councils to pass power down to communities.

New Start

Scotland’s national regeneration agency Communities Scotland will be abolished.

The move, announced as New Start went to press, follows a manifesto commitment by the Scottish Nationalist Party to transfer many of the functions of Communities Scotland to local authorities, while retaining a national regulatory and monitoring framework for housing associations.

However, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said this week the regulation of social housing would operate outside the government and independently of ministers.

‘While Communities Scotland has done good work in supporting local regeneration activities, we have decided to remove the middle man between the strategic leadership of national government and the role of local authorities and community planning partnerships,’ she said.

‘These changes will mean that there is a single player at national government level that is setting the strategic direction and providing support to the housing and regeneration sectors. We aim to have these new structural arrangements in place by spring 2008.’

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (Cosla) spokesperson for community wellbeing and safety, Harry McGuigan, said: ‘Cosla has argued tirelessly for the abolition of unaccountable quangos so the dismantling of Communities Scotland is extremely welcome.

‘It’s right that in a democratic Scotland all policy and funding decisions over housing and regeneration should lie with local and national government, not an unelected intermediary.

‘And it’s right that local government should be freed up to deliver on the regeneration of our communities.’

An expert on regeneration in Scotland, who didn’t want to be named, said Communities Scotland was an incoherent organisation that had failed to make significant progress.

In September, the government delivered on another devolution pledge by transferring responsibility for local regeneration from business development agency Scottish Enterprise to local authorities.

It is also committed to piloting a community empowerment scheme, allowing people to co-manage a proportion of public spending and services.