Council seek to clarify policy on community asset transfers

Transferred to the community – council to clarify policy.

Moray Council are to review their own rules on how they transfer public assets to community groups amid concerns that current rules are “not clear enough”.

Several public buildings have already been transferred to community groups as the local authority sought to reduce its overheads in the midst of severe financial cutbacks.

Buildings in Forres, Aberlour and Tomintoul have recently been passed into community control with a number of community groups considering placing applications for others.

However, during consideration for a bid by a local theatre company to take over a former council building council leader Allan Wright said he had “cause for concern” over valuable assets being passed out of council control.

The concerns emerged when consideration was being given to an application by the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company, who sought to take over former council offices on Academy Street in Elgin.

Valued at around £340,000 the offices became surplus to requirements by Moray Council when staff were moved to the new headquarters building. The theatre group required a new home as renovation work has currently closed Elgin Town Hall – which, in any case, the theatre company no longer considers as suitable for their purposes.

Councillor Wright told members of the policy and resources committee: “Good as this theatre company are, I’m concerned that if we decide to give them a £340,000 grant we could have a queue of similar applications.”

The committee agreed to a short-term lease on the building for the theatre company while the local authority seeks to clarify its own rules over what type of buildings could be transferred to community ownership.

Councillor Wright said such a move was required so that groups did not waste time and money preparing detailed business plans for buildings that are not available.

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