UK Government Community Ownership Fund is now Live

Having worked with a range of partners from across the sector to call for a dedicated fund to support community ownership projects, Plunkett Foundation is pleased to see that the Community Ownership Fund is now live. The fund aims to help communities protect vital community assets that are at risk of being lost, such as pubs, shops, post offices, parks and community centres amongst many other examples. It offers a huge opportunity for grassroots projects across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to actively influence the future of their local area.

Administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government the fund of £150m will be available across all 4 UK nations over the next 4 years and will be administered in 8 application rounds.

The first round, which is now open for applications will close on 13 August 2021. A second round will occur in December 2021 followed by the third round in May 2022. All future rounds will be shared at the earliest opportunity.

The full fund prospectus, further guidance for applicants and a PDF/Word version of the application can be found via this link https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/new-levelling-up-and-community-investments.

Applications will need to be submitted via an online portal which will go live on 30 July 2021.

The Community Ownership Fund has 4 strategic objectives:
  1. provide targeted investment for communities to save community assets that would otherwise be lost
  2. strengthen capacity and capability in communities to support them to shape their places and develop sustainable community businesses
  3. empower communities in left behind places to level up
  4. strengthen direct links between places across the UK and the UK government

There is no definitive list but your community group should fall into one of the following categories:

– If your group is purchasing a physical asset “at risk”, eg; land, buildings or large physical structure that will deliver a benefit to local people.

– If your group is renovating an asset, when capital works are part of a sale or transfer

– If your group is establishing a new community business to save an existing community asset or amenity, eg the purchase of stock, collections or intellectual property

– If your group is moving a community service to a new location within the same community

Applications for funding will only be accepted from incorporated organisations. Many of the community groups already working with Plunkett will be eligible for the funding and your legal structure might be one of the following:

– charitable incorporated organisation

– Scottish charitable incorporated organisation

– Co-operatives including Community benefit Societies

– Community Interest Company

– Not-for-profit company limited by guarantee

Applications can be made for up to £250k (representing 50% of your purchase costs) in some exceptional cases up to £1million matched capital grants will be available to help establish, protect or buy a community-owned sports club.

Additionally revenue funding for up to £50k can be used for some pre and post acquisition costs, e.g. feasibility studies, property valuations, building surveys, working capital etc. This does not need to be matched, but can only account for 20% of the groups capital costs.

 

All applicants are encouraged to read the full detail on the Government website but in general, there are 4 areas of assessment:

  • To demonstrate that the asset will be lost to the community without intervention, the impact of this loss and the community support the group has
  • Your business plan setting out the objectives and deliverability of the project, how it will be run sustainably and for the long-term in community ownership
  • How it will deliver community benefit using the Fund’s guidance published in the full prospectus
  • The added value of the community asset based on community need

The priorities for the first round are to invest in projects which are ready to access capital funding and complete their projects within 6 months. All round 1 bids must be submitted by 13 August 2021.

This bidding round will be most suitable for community groups who have done preliminary work and have a viable business plan to take ownership of the local asset or amenity at risk.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate the asset is at risk, has a realistic chance of sale or transfer within 6 months of applying to the Fund, and be able to provide a full business plan for how the community asset will be run sustainably.

The fund is being administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. Final decisions on applications will be made by MHCLG.

Where can I get advice on my application?

There will be no dedicated or single “go to” source of advice for the first round of Community Ownership Fund, which closes on 13 August 2021. According to the guidance on the Government website “Access to funding and advice through subsequent rounds may be available to help communities with early-stage plans to develop viable proposals and become investment ready.”

As part of Plunkett’s Community Business support groups can currently access our comprehensive advice services, bespoke resources and templates, training and peer learning opportunities, legal structure advice (including model rules for Community Benefit Societies) and additional membership services.

Plunkett also offers advice on how to write a funding application, preparing business plans and presenting evidence of local support and needed to make your case for funding.

The full prospectus, further guidance for applicants and a PDF/Word version of the application can be found via this link https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/new-levelling-up-and-community-investments.

The Government portal will open on 30 July 2021 – you must submit your application online and the deadline for submission is 13 August 2021.

Learning about other community ownership projects:

Plunkett Foundation always advocates for peer learning and encourages community business projects to learn from other, already open-and-trading businesses as part of their development journey. Groups looking at the Community Ownership Fund as an opportunity to realise their own community ownership aspirations can use our map of businesses, to find local examples of community businesses to learn from. You may also find our resources, case studies and links to up-coming training of interest too – available here.

If your group needs help or advice please contact Plunkett Foundation tel no: 0845 5571469 or submit an enquiry form here.