I was so appreciative of Mel, Kirsty and Jo for giving up their time to speak with the MP and I will never tire of championing the great work they are doing with Furze Down School – offering work experience to young people with additional needs. This kind of ‘social impact’ is very present throughout the community-ownership movement and it was great to give their efforts some greater recognition than what I, alone, could offer to them.
It’s safe to say we were impressed by how the business is flourish in these well documented challenging times, furthermore it was great to hear that they have been able to utilise funding from HS2 to install solar panels on the village hall. We know from our own research that many community businesses are already installing, or have a desire to install energy saving materials (ESMs) on their premises. It was great therefore to share with Greg Plunkett’s ask of Government to extend the VAT relief (announced in the Autumn statement) on ESMs to community benefit societies also. This simple change would back a movement that is delivering social, economic, and environmental impacts the length and breadth of the UK.
Greg was also interested to hear about Plunkett’s work with ‘other’ forms of community businesses, that were not shops and pubs – which are by far the biggest community that we have supported to date. It was great to be able to reference that on the day we were meeting, our Chief Executive was filming for a piece to be broadcast on the BBC in the New Year which will feature a community-owned hardware shop and a local group aspiring to bring their GP surgery into community ownership. With more and more people recognising that this form of business can not only protect local assets, but also encourage employment and training opportunities, provide a boost to local supply and trade, and demonstrably address many hidden inequities that exist in the countryside through creating inclusive spaces, it’s no wonder the network continues to grow year on year.