The long-awaited report from the Community Ownership Commission has been published, reaffirming’s UK Labour’s ambition for a ‘Community Right to Buy’.

The report entitled ‘Unleashing Community Ownership’, which Plunkett contributed to, including data from our Keep in the Community (KIITC) platform, was commissioned by Labour last year, and has been published by their sister organisation, the Coop Party. In summary, the commission’s report set out the following ambitions:

  • A Community Right to Buy (an upgrade on the current Community Right to Bid) in England, giving communities a right of first refusal on assets of community value that become available for sale.
  • Move to a place-based funding model, including via an expanded Community Ownership Fund.
  • Greater use of a wider range of funders, including private investment via institutions such as the British Business Bank.
  • Reshape the role that local government, including a greater commitment to involving local residents and communities in the decision-making processes related to the protection of community assets.

Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy and Communications, attended the roundtable report launch and shares his thoughts on what it means for our movement of rural community-owned businesses:

Let me start by saying that the publication of this report should be welcomed by our network. An official report, which will influence Labour’s future policy activity, and which recognises the role and value of community-owned businesses, should be seen as a positive. Secondly, the recognition of the need to go beyond current legislation and strengthen the Community Rights, to include a Community Right to Buy, is something we have long called for.

This would overcome a major shortcoming in current legislation which only provides communities a six-month moratorium period to make a bid for an asset of community value. Asset owners maintain the right to refuse to sell to the community. A Community Right to Buy would instead give communities the first right of refusal to purchase at a fair value.

As a UK-wide organisation, we are conscious to make clear the proposed ‘Community Right to Buy’ in this report would be for communities in England only. This will not distract us from our ambition to see communities, in all UK nations, have a right of first refusal on the assets that matter most to them. To this end, we will continue to support calls for improvements to the current Community Right to Buy in Scotland and will work with our partners in Wales and Northern Ireland to continue growing the community ownership sectors here also.

'Save the Hop Pole' - a community-owned asset in Hertfordshire

The Shrewsbury Arms and The Abingdon Arms - two pubs that are proudly community-owned!

Whilst the outcome of the Commission’s work is positive, we feel the report could have gone further in the following areas:

  • Making sure that any prioritised distribution of funds such as the Community Ownership Fund, does not exclude rural communities by solely using data such as the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). The report author, Mark Gregory, acknowledges a point that we have made many times in the past, that the IMD on their own, do not always articulate the needs and deprivation faced in the countryside. There is still work for us to do, most likely working with the Rural Coalition, to make sure that other appropriate metrics are available to support future support and funding distribution.
  • If there is a greater role for local government to play, in respect of growing the community ownership sector it is vital that the capacity, skills and knowledge exists within the authorities to facilitate this. Our KIITC subscription service for local authorities could be a cost effective way of achieving this.
  • Finally, in relation to awareness raising, current infrastructure bodies (both national and locally) need to be resourced to scale up our collective activity and reach. It must not be assumed that sector growth can be supported on a shoe-string budget, further investment in advisory services, expertise and support will be a crucial part of realising the ambitions in the report.
Plunkett seeks to represent the views and interests of our members in relation to policy matters in all four UK nations. To achieve this, we work with a range of partners to advocate for funding, support and legislation which will benefit the growing community ownership movement. If you are interested to find out more about this stream of work, please do not hesitate to contact

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