James Alcock, Chief Executive of Plunkett Foundation, responds to £150m Community Ownership Fund announced in today’s spring Budget.
The £150m Community Ownership Fund will provide hope to hundreds of communities desperate to take control of pubs, sports clubs, theatres and spaces that are important and special to them. Able to bid up to £250,000 match funding these groups will have a better chance at securing a much loved and valued community buildings or space.
As the national charity dedicated to supporting rural community owned businesses of all types, and the only body offering a complete advisory service supporting rural and urban community pubs, we are thrilled at the recognition this funding gives to the value of community businesses to the economy and the greater wellbeing of their communities. We’re also reassured that SITR will be extended until 2023 offering valuable tax relief and recognising the role of social investment in community-owned projects.
Today’s announcement offers a number of other positive measures that will help support our existing community businesses including the extension of the furlough scheme, restart grants, recovery loans, business rate relief, reduced VAT on food and non-alcoholic drink and cancelling the planned increase in duty on alcohol.
We hope that the announcement of a Community Ownership Fund will inspire even more communities to step up to reclaim their pubs, shops and local spaces for the benefit of many and unlock the support of Plunkett’s specialist advice, guidance, training and expertise in supporting community businesses.
However, with over 250 community groups already working with us to secure their local pub and a further 200 other businesses at various stages of transferring to community ownership there is now an even bigger need to invest in the advisory capacity for community businesses to ensure that those in the process of setting up are resilient enough to take on assets and services for the long term.
We are also calling on government for this funding to be supported by legislative and regulatory change across the UK for communities to truly benefit, including:
- A consistent set of Community Rights across the UK that protects local assets and offers communities a genuine “Right to Buy” the facility for local benefit.
- Local Authorities to be given greater support and insurance cover to bring assets in to community purchase using Compulsory Purchase powers.
- Greater understanding of community businesses within the banking industry to ensure fairer access to banking and financial services.
Having supported over 700 community businesses to set up in the last 25 years, Plunkett has offered its expertise to Government to help shape the detail of how the Community Ownership Fund is successfully delivered. It will be important that this fund is not just allocating grants, but also investing in the existing infrastructure that supports community businesses to work together as a movement and to enable them to survive and thrive.