Whilst we wait for change (or no change) however, we must not miss out on the opportunity to continue making use of the legislation available now. CAMRA have been fantastic in terms of mobilising their grassroots campaigners to register pubs as Assets of Community Value. In fact, pubs now account for more than 40% of all ACVs listed across England. We need to learn from what they are doing and bring a similar amount of attention to other assets; so that shops, post offices, cafes, greenspaces, woodlands, historic buildings, community centres etc. are not lost by default.
Plunkett has been managing a platform called Keep it in the Community for the past 2 years and we believe that the site could be part of the solution. KIITC has compiled the most comprehensive dataset for listed, rejected and expired assets of community value in England. With information compiled from all 307 English councils it provides a unique view of how different authority areas are engaging with the legislation at the moment. If we are to improve things right now, then it is local government that needs to be supported to achieve this. Furthermore, we believe that the existence of a national database rather than separate lists for each council (even if the council remains the approving body – given the local connectedness) would improve consistency levels across the country.
Locally elected members and council staff need to be supported with training and information about how the community-ownership model can and is working in places across the country. This level of awareness would help assessment processes, with community ambition supported to a greater degree. Furthermore, councillors and staff should be encouraged to visit and learn from community businesses that are already trading in their authority area. Plunkett would be happy to facilitate site visits, but also local VCSE bodies are often well versed in what asset-based, community and social action is happening at a grassroots level. Put simply we need to raise awareness of the opportunities that exist.
Of course, the other important action which needs to be taken is for any interested groups, wanting to explore community-ownership of assets to be directed to advice and support as soon as possible, to allow their projects to gain momentum. This again will require a level of education and awareness about what is out there, which is why the KIITC platform is linked with MyCommunity – a great place for any new project to start their learning journey.