Community asset ownership can bring a wide range of benefits to a local area and its residents. From strengthening the economy and building civic pride to supporting more responsive public services and safeguarding social infrastructure such as pubs, shops, and post-offices, community asset ownership is an increasingly popular model for improving local outcomes. But how well equipped are ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods to take advantage of the benefits that asset ownership can bring, and what can be done to better support areas overcome the barriers they face?
An OCSI (Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion) data dive and new research into the barriers to asset ownership faced by ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods has been commissioned from Renaisi to inform this session, with support from Power to Change, and the participation of Locality, Co-operatives UK and the National Community Land Trust Network.
- Alison McKenzie-Folan, Chief Executive, Wigan Council
- John Hitchin, Chief Executive, Renaisi
- Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive, Power to Change
- Alison Jones, Development Manager, Little Hulton Big Local
This briefing provides an overview of community assets and ownership in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. It reveals that these neighbourhoods have some of the lowest numbers of civic and social assets in the country. It also explores the benefits that community asset ownership could bring to residents in England’s 225 ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods, and how they could be better supported to take full advantage of local assets in the future.
Commissioned by Local Trust and Power to Change, the research by Renaisi seeks to better understand the specific barriers communities in areas identified as ‘left behind’ may face in owning and controlling local assets, from community hubs and businesses to local sports and leisure facilities.
A ‘data dive’ research report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods into the presence of community buildings, institutions, and charitable organisations in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. Please find here the accompanying OCSI data workbook.
Community assets in the UK
- How many of us had ‘pandemic’ in our risk register: experiences of community buildings during the lockdown of 2020. Community Matters (2020). This report draws attention to the huge contribution made by community buildings – from village halls to community hubs and libraries – to developing local responses during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
- The state of our social fabric: measuring the changing nature of community over time and geography. Onward (2020). This report estimates the strength of community over time and in every local authority in the UK. It draws on the social fabric index, which pinpoints local assets as a key contributor to community strength.
- Community hubs: understanding survival and success. Local Trust (2019). Drawing on research with over 120 hubs and exploring the topic through 8 detailed case studies, this report provides useful insights into how those who run community hubs can achieve long-term financial sustainability.
- The Great British sell off: how we’re losing our vital publicly owned buildings and spaces. Locality (2018). This report finds that on average more than 4,000 publicly owned buildings and spaces in England are being sold off every year. It highlights that these buildings are a source of vital services and support to local people, and could be saved by improved support for community ownership and asset transfer.
Community asset ownership and transfer
- Place and spaces: the future of community asset ownership. Locality (2018). Across the country, enterprising communities are seeking to manage and own important assets to transform the places where they live. This report is a call for support that would enable every community to take advantage of community ownership and asset transfer, enabling them to safeguard and renovate vital local assets.
- The economics of community asset transfers. Power to Change (2017). This report provides comprehensive guidance for local authorities and communities on developing, appraising, implementing and evaluating community asset transfers.
Building on assets: the Local Trust approach. Institute for Voluntary Action Research and Local Trust (2015).‘Building on assets’ is the term the Institute for Voluntary Action Research have used to describe how Local Trust supports sustainable community development. The research describes the key strengths and successes of this approach, as well as practical details around how communities can be supported to build on assets in their local area.
- Community ownership and transfer of local authority assets. Improvement Service (2014). This briefing was prepared by the Community Ownership Support Service, a government-funded programme supporting the transfer of assets from local authorities to community ownership. It gives an overview of community ownership and asset transfer, highlighting what it can achieve for communities.
- Making assets work: the Quirk review of community management and ownership of public assets. (Ministry for Communities and Local Government, 2007). This first major government review into community ownership and asset transfer finds that the benefits outweigh the costs, and that the approach should become a mainstream rather than exceptional activity.
- Assets of community value. (Sandford, 2017). This briefing note discusses the ‘community right to bid’ for ‘assets of community value’, introduced by the Localism Act 2011. This includes both the workings of the scheme and related options with regard to community land and buildings.