Open to community organisations across the UK, the Community Ownership Fund provides up to 50 per cent match-funded capital grants to help take ownership of 'at risk' assets.
The £150 million Community Ownership Fund is for communities across the UK. It has been set up to help communities take ownership of assets and amenities at risk of closure and will run for four years.
Government is offering up to £50,000 of revenue grants on a non-matched basis, to help pay for project costs and to provide some working capital post-acquisition. This will be critical help for many organisations as they develop business plans, up-skill volunteers and conduct community share offers.
Although the fund has some limitations, the early bidding rounds will be a learning experience for everyone involved and we will support the fund's development to enable community ownership to flourish and grow.
Co-operatives UK Policy Officer, James Wright said: "We are pleased that community shares is given special prominence in the prospectus as a means for communities to raise match funds.
"Community shares will be instrumental in mobilizing long-lasting local support and creating resilient and financially robust community businesses. The flexibility community shares affords organizations will also be invaluable, given the grant restrictions imposed by government and other funders."
Another key strength of community shares is how poorer communities can raise additional funds from the wealthy, without ceding local, democratic control. This strategy could be vital in addressing some of the inequalities currently baked into the fund’s design.
It’s also very promising that government is explicit that creating “additional local economic outcomes" is one of the outcomes that can be sought. Democratic ownership of assets can help people to build a fairer, more distributive economy.
James added: "We are concerned that the government’s decisions to limit match-funding to 50 per cent regardless of equalities and to do without a package of accompanying support, will advantage the already advantaged in the bidding process.
"This could easily reduce the fund’s ability to help marginalized and disadvantaged communities to take ownership of assets, which could and should be a key benefit of the initiative."
We will be feeding our insights from round one back to government, to help inform decisions about future rounds.