Unlocking Community Assets: Capacity and Power to Change

Power to Change and Capacity: The Public Services Lab are working together to support several Liverpool City Region Local Authorities in the process of Community Asset Transfer.

Power to Change believes that ‘No one understands a community better than the people who live there’ and we agree – to sustainably regenerate and build up a community, we need to work locally.

Austerity has meant that vital community infrastructure – libraries, pubs, sports fields – are closing every day, affecting the UK’s poorest communities. Communities are also left without affordable housing. In Liverpool alone, we need an additional 36,000 units of housing over the next 20 years.

Two City Region Local Authorities alone are sitting on over 1,500 disused and underused assets. Councils are selling off the buildings and land to private developers or social landlords – focused on shareholders, not community value – in an effort to save money or simply because they don’t have the time or knowledge to look at alternative options. In the poorest areas, they are just lying derelict. In Bootle, for example, there is one piece of disused land that can accommodate between 150 – 200 units of housing as well as leisure facilities to support the regeneration of the Canal and local area.

The answer is, quite literally, on our doorstep. Community Asset Transfer means that local authorities can transfer management and/or ownership of public land and buildings from its owner to a community organisation for less than market value to achieve social, economic or environmental benefit for the community.

There is a clear opportunity for communities to co-create the areas that they want to live in.

Several Local Authorities have assets of community value but due to a lack of capacity, capability or funding they are struggling to realise the commercial and community benefit of these assets. Capacity is working with these Local Authorities to revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs.

Community Asset Ownership is believed to underpin sustainable community businesses, acting as a financial buffer, and has been supported by central and local government policy changes in recent years. Despite this, asset transfer remains a complicated process and local authorities can be slow to engage, lacking the staff resources or experience to deliver on it.

In collaboration with Power to Change, we will engage the community with these Local Authorities, to build relationships of trust on both sides, and develop options for asset transfer to communities that result in viable community businesses being established. Two options will be selected and feasibility studies will be delivered, that give both the council and the community confidence that an asset transfer could result in a business that delivers social benefit in the local area. Once completed, Capacity will produce an Evaluation Report to summarise learnings from this project and make recommendations for how asset transfer could be accelerated to inform Local Authorities in the Liverpool City Region and beyond.

Ailbhe McNabola, Head of Research and Policy at Power to Change said,

At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, community businesses are helping local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. At Power to Change we know from our work with housing providers that community-led housing can often meet the needs of local people, not just in terms of quality, environmental standards and genuine affordability, but also filling the gaps in small and difficult sites that are unattractive to larger scale developers. Similarly, other community businesses can revitalise areas and provide access to much-needed services. We are delighted to be working with Capacity in Liverpool to grow the community business market by transferring assets to community ownership.”

Chris Catterall, Chief Executive of Capacity said,

Local Authorities are under increased pressure with less financial resource and staff capacity. Their ability to support communities with Asset Transfer is limited and therefore communities need increased technical resources to develop sustainable businesses cases. We are very confident that through this project we can demonstrate that when communities are provided with technical expertise, they can develop sustainable Community Businesses capable of managing Community Asset Transfers that transform local areas.”

Power to Change is an independent trust, whose funding is used to strengthen community businesses across England. At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, Power to Change helps local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. Visit Power to Change

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Public Services Lab
2nd Floor, Cunard building
Water Street, Liverpool
L3 1QB

Email: Grace.Nolan@capacitylab.co.uk
Telephone: 0151 236 1664

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