In the 2021 Budget announcement in March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced measures to set the UK on a path for recovery which ‘meets the moment’. The Chancellor explained that his immediate priority was to support those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. He announced a range of measures: extensions to furlough, self-employment support, business grants, and more. He also announced the Community Ownership Fund, which will help to ensure that communities across the UK can support local facilities. Pubs, sports clubs, theatres, and other similar facilities are an integral part of British communities, and the Fund will help to keep them community-orientated.
From Summer 2021 onwards, community groups can bid for up to £250,000 matched-funding to help them either buy or take over local community assets which are at risk. In a recent policy paper, the Ministry of Housing, Local Communities and Local Government confirmed that up to £1 million matched-funding could become available to establish community sports clubs or buy sports grounds at risk of closure.
The importance of community-owned assets
Even before the 2021 Budget announcement, community-owned assets were on the rise. Power to Change estimates that there are more than 6,300 community-owned assets in the UK. According to a report by Power to Change and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, community-owned assets ‘give people a greater sense of connection to the places where they live’. The report found that the community ownership sector is growing quickly, and contributes nearly £220 million to the UK economy each year.
The report made several recommendations which the authors believe would ‘strengthen the current system of funding and finance’. Local processes should improve, as well as the wider policy framework around asset transfers and community rights. Similarly, there should be more support and business planning within community assets, and funding should improve.
When will the Community Ownership Fund launch and who
The first Community Ownership Fund bidding round will commence by June 2021, along with more documentation on the bidding process. All communities across the UK will be able to submit bids. The government has explained that it will not be publishing a definitive list of eligible assets, as ‘it is important for communities to set out what matters most to them’.
The Fund has been well-received by a range of community groups, including the residents of a Teesside village who hope to buy a local pub that closed in 2019. One resident explained that “the whole idea is to get people together, to come in and make friends and create goodwill and well-being among the community.” Similarly, a Buckinghamshire group hoping to save their local pub has welcomed the announcement of the Fund. The grade II listed building is at risk of residential development, and many in the local community are keen to save the establishment.
Community-owned assets are becoming increasingly important in the UK. Unfortunately, assets such as libraries and youth centres often face budget cuts from local councils when cost-saving measures need to be taken. However, these assets are vital to the fabric of many communities in the UK. Fortunately, the Community Ownership Fund will allow many communities to save the assets that matter to them the most.
Talk to us if you’d like to learn more about the 2021 Budget, accountancy, tax, wealth management and more.