WEE COUNTY groups who could take on the running of community halls from the council have until September to see the process through.

Approved last week as part of the budget for the year ahead, the council will cease funding Tullibody Civic Centre, the Cochrane Hall in Alva and Dollar Civic Centre for an expected saving of £133,889 over two years.

The buildings are now available for a Community Asset Transfer under the Community Empowerment Act and the council hopes to pass the responsibility of running them onto voluntary and community organisations by September this year.

However, some groups, though keen to explore the idea, are fearful that the timescale is simply not realistic.

At the meeting, held last Thursday at Kilncraigs, Conservative Councillor Darren Lee questioned whether six months is, indeed, long enough and whether there are staff trained to help local groups take the transition forward.

Responding, officers admitted that the timescale is "challenging", but a number of conversations have already been ongoing with staff working along community groups and were confident the transfers could go ahead.

When Cllr Lee asked what would happen if the process fails, he was told details could be brought to the chamber on such a scenario if staff and communities struggle.

Enshrined in legislation, the council must assess a transfer request against a specific criteria – those applying need to demonstrate necessary expertise and experience to manage the asset and must have a sound business plan.

One group in Tullibody has been looking into the process "non-stop" since September 2017, but worry over the impending deadline.

Janette McGowan, chairperson of Tullibody Community Development Trust, explained her organisation has been developing plans to maintain the Tullibody Civic Centre and the surrounding playing fields.

She said: "We've applied for a Scottish Land Fund grant to develop a business and marketing plan with professional support and we need to obtain a conditions study, valuation report and an architect's feasibility study for the centre.

"Our fear now is that a September deadline won't give us enough time to prepare for this step."

She is asking people with an interest to head along to the group's next meeting on Tuesday, March 20, at 7pm in the centre to help prepare the bid.

During the meeting, Labour's Cllr Dave Clark, was mindful that some halls that are in community hands are struggling in the Wee County.

Speaking to the Advertiser, he said: "Devonvale Hall is now down to four people running it – I don't think that's democracy in any form or shape.

"Also, I'm mindful of the fiasco that was Alva Baths. It started off hugely enthusiastic and then they found out it was a dog's breakfast they were trying to deal with.

"Furthermore, you need to factor into this that there will some substantial cuts in the following three years as well."

Meanwhile, Community Access Points (CAPs) will also see changes.

According to the budget paper, Alva CAP is to move into the local primary school, Sauchie CAP will relocate to Sauchie Hall and the access points in Clackmannan and Dollar as well as the Dumyat Centre in Menstrie are all available for Community Asset Transfer.

This represents a £64,000 saving over two years.

Some of these are expected to be taken forward this financial year, while other items like Alva CAP already have plans in the works.