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Groups say bill must offer genuine empowerment

This news post is about 9 years old

​Charities warn amendments to bill must stay in place to offer genuine democratic change for communities

Some of Scotland’s leading charities have joined in a final call to place communities at the heart of the community empowerment bill.

The bill, which aims to make it easier for the public to contribute in decisions affecting them and take greater control of local assets, is going through the last stages of the legislative process.

However, Oxfam, Barnardo’s and The Poverty Alliance have reiterated the need for “genuine empowerment of communities” before the bill reaches its final stage next week (16 June).

The three organisations campaigned for amendments tabled by Alex Rowley MSP at the committee stage which were these were supported by the committee.

These included the setting of minimum standards for the way the Scottish Government has to consult on national outcomes and giving communities and community bodies the right to appeal if public bodies turn down their request to be involved in setting local priorities.

Without these amendments, the inequalities between the most and least affluent communities will widen - Peter Kelly

But there are fears the government could use its majority in the chamber to overturn the amendments made by the committee.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “These amendments strengthen the bill and help ensure that the most disadvantaged communities in Scotland are given a voice in the decision making process.

“We are concerned that without these amendments, the inequalities between the most and least affluent communities will widen.

“We hope that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government will listen to the voices of all of the organisations that supported these amendments and will ensure that empowerment is not removed from the bill.

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said the bill is an important moment for communities in Scotland and that the bill will have a huge impact on the way government at all levels responds to the needs, of communities across the country.

He added: “We very much hope that the Parliament is prepared to listen to the views of organisations working in communities, which have sought to participate in the details of this vital bill.”

This was backed by Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland.

“There is much in the bill to welcome but we must ensure that all of Scotland’s communities can take full advantage of the rights it creates in order to strengthen their voices in decisions that matter to them,” he said.

“We hope the Scottish Government safeguard these important changes and ensure the legislation retains its potential to empower communities right across the country.”