An investigation is to be launched into Fife Council’s policy of selling surplus properties after it was revealed just two public organisations have been granted a buy-out since the scheme was introduced five years ago.
A team is to be set up to scrutinise the local authority’s process after a new report confirmed that there were just two successful transfers out of 67 enquiries since the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme went live in August 2016.
What is a CAT?
A community organisation or charity can make a request to use land or buildings a council owns or rents from someone else.
They can ask to buy or lease the land or buildings or have other legal rights, for example to use the land.
The authority must listen to what the community body wants to do with the land or building.
If the authority does not agree to the request, the community transfer body can ask for the decision to be looked at again. Scottish Ministers have the final say.
Only two approvals
A report by Paul Vaughan, head of communities and neighbourhoods and Ken Gourlay, head of assets, transportation and environment, revealed that of 53 firm applications regarding possible property take over, just 25 made it through to stage two of the process and only two were eventually approved.
Only Kirkcaldy YMCA’s takeover of Gallatown Bowling Club in 2018 and Kingdom Brass Band’s purchase of the former library building in Kelty in April 2019 have been concluded.
The report added: “Twenty-five organisations were invited to submit stage two applications and there have been various outcomes in relation to the stage two process.
“Three organisations decided not to proceed with a CAT and withdrew their application however two organisations (Kingdom Brass Band and Kirkcaldy YMCA) have completed the CAT process and been successful in taking ownership of a council asset.”
The report further highlighted that 10 organisations had seen their stage two application approved by committee but formal offers of purchase were still to be forthcoming.
In addition, one organisation had gone on to lodge a formal appeal with the Scottish Ministers after it had been reject by the Fife authority.
The lack of success the past five years was criticised by Kirkcaldy area committee convener Neil Crooks.
He said: “The report throws up a number of questions, most notably whether the process has been a success or not.
“We’ve only processed two successful transfers in five years which is small change for such a significant resource that’s been put in by Fife Council.
“The report doesn’t tell us why people are being refused or even why we have one applicant feeling that it needs to lodge an appeal to the Scottish Government.
“Because of this I propose we set up a scrutiny panel to look into the reasons why this had been so unsuccessful in its time.”
Backing the call by Mr Crooks, fellow Labour councillor, Linda Erskine said the report threw up “more questions than answers”.
She added that communication of what assets were available as well as better explanation to organisations and community groups of the process were also essential.
The scrutiny panel will be made up of councillors, after a motion to set one up received cross-party backing.