Image: Polmont Sports Centre - one of the facilities that could be transferred.
More than 70 groups from across the Falkirk area have come forward to say they are interested in taking on properties currently owned by the Council
The positive expressions of interest came during a four-week engagement project with the public run by Falkirk Council after Elected Members agreed in principle to close 133 office and community buildings.
Community groups have shown an interest in more than 50 buildings including the Bo’ness Recreation Centre, the Polmont Sports Centre, and the Bonnybridge Community Centre. Discussions are also ongoing with national sports bodies regarding Grangemouth Stadium.
Elected Members will consider a proposal at Council this month to proceed with the Community Asset Transfers (CAT) supported by £6m of investment to improve the facilities before they pass to the groups. If the CAT’s do not take place, then the Council would proceed to close the buildings on a phased basis.
The activity is part of a Strategic Property Review (SPR) to address the fact the Council currently owns too many buildings that are ageing, in poor condition and require investment of around £200m to avoid unexpected closures. The Council does not have this money and is currently looking at how to close an estimated £65m budget gap over the next four years. In addition, without reducing the number of buildings it operates the Council will not be able to meet its climate change targets by reducing carbon use.
Town Halls in Bo’ness, Grangemouth and Larbert have been removed from the SPR proposal being considered at this time to allow further reviews to be undertaken into operating models and energy efficiency.
More than 3600 take part in the engagement
Malcolm Bennie, Director of Place Services, said: “Firstly we are grateful to the 3,600 individuals who took part in Strategic Property Review engagement, and to the dozens of community groups which have come forward to express an interest in taking over Council properties. This is a really positive place to be in and highlights how committed local people are to their neighbourhoods.
“The proposal to be considered by Elected Members later this month is that we use £6m to support these into successful Community Asset Transfers. This would pass the running of these buildings to the people who know their areas the best and what their communities need. Community Groups can also seek external funding not available to the Council to secure further investment in the buildings.
“In circumstances where no CAT is possible then we would propose to close buildings on a phased basis. This would save the Council money, reduce carbon emissions, and allow the Council to invest the limited funds it has in key buildings it retains.
“Some of the buildings in the SPR are empty 97% of the week and it is the officer view that this is not value for money at a time when the Council budget is under so much pressure. It is now up to Elected Members to consider how best to proceed.”