Today’s coverage of 2 community-ownership projects in Cumbria, on BBC Breakfast news, was the most wonderful reminder of the army of amazing people that are running local projects for local benefit up and down the country. Coming just a day after the end of this year’s #VolunteersWeek it should’t be forgotten that for many of these people, they contribute so much for the benefit of others in their spare time. It is therefore essential that these kind-hearted groups have access to the advice and support they need, to help them achieve their community project ambitions.
Plunkett Foundation has been proudly supporting community-ownership projects for over 100 years, in all 4 UK nations – England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Groups like Kirkoswald Community Shop and the Lowther Arms in Mawbray, featured on TV today, are a great example of the groups we support. When we see their successes getting such high-profile recognition and also seeing what the people involved there have achieved, we are just so pleased that Plunkett has been able to play our part in supporting them. We hope that the success of these projects, get more people interested in the model and we stand ready to help with a range of advice, training and guidance that is bespoke to the needs of individual projects.
How can we get more communities, or more importantly individual residents (that could form a group) recognising that community-ownership could be a way of protecting local businesses, services or assets? More coverage on national TV would help but it is the considered, informed local conversations that are really needed to help spark these kind of projects in the first place. We produced this guide with NALC last year, to try and spark conversations via parish and town councils but the reality is that literally anyone can start a community business project and we’ve got a range of tools and resources that can be used to help. It’s always good to learn from other existing businesses too and our Facebook groups for Community Pubs, Community Shops and Woodland Social Enterprises are a great place to learn about how community-ownership has worked elsewhere.
Finally, the feature on the BBC referenced the upcoming Community Ownership Fund, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Spring budget statement and due to be launched imminently. Plunkett, along with partners UK-wide have been directly engaging the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG – the body administering the fund) to make sure that there is appropriate support in place so that this funding reaches those communities that need it the most. Provision of advice and capacity building support, alongside direct investment for projects will be essential to the success of the fund. Groups need to be able to access the help they need to shape and progress a local project.
Off the back of today’s coverage our message is one of thanks, for all the people involved in community-ownership projects everywhere. Your efforts and contributions are simply amazing and Plunkett Foundation is here to help, so please do keep in touch.
You can access advice and support from Plunkett Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy & Communications