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Spring Budget: £150m pledged for high-risk high street community ownership

Spring Budget: £150m pledged for high-risk high street community ownership
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In his budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined steps towards ‘investment-led recovery’. This included the launch of the Community Ownership Fund. Here’s what it means and how it can help your neighbourhood.

What is the Community Ownership Fund?

It’s a very large pot of money – £150 million in fact. The idea is that communities will be able to access money from the fund and buy up local assets that might otherwise be lost.  

The Community Ownership Fund will match money raised by local groups up to a value of £250,000. In some exceptional circumstances, up to £1 million will be up for grabs.

The intention is that these local assets will be run as community-owned businesses. 

What can funds be spent on?

The government has purposely not specified the types of projects the money can be spent on. Instead, they’ve said ‘it is important for communities to set out what matters most to them.’

Examples of assets that could be eligible include: sports and leisure facilities, theatres, pubs, parks and shops. 

Projects should be ‘focused on place-based assets or amenities which are important to the local community, build connections between people and foster a sense of pride in the local area.’

Who can bid for funding?

All locally-run groups from across the UK can apply for money from the Community Ownership Fund.

Ideally, bids will come from groups with governance structures in place. In other words, there should be a formal set of rules about accountability and decision-making. But that’s not set in stone. You can still apply if you don’t have formal governance in place as yet.

However, if you apply and your bid is successful, funds will only be given once your group has established governance rules.

There are groups that definitely can’t apply and they include local authorities and parish councils. That said, parish councils can work with community groups to submit a bid. 

When will the fund launch?

The Community Ownership Fund will launch in June 2021. The government will soon publish full guidelines about how community groups can apply and what information you’ll need to include. There will also be full guidance on how bids will be judged.

What’s the point of the Community Ownership Fund?

It’s all part of the plan to encourage growth through investment. The overall aim is to generate jobs and stimulate local economies. The government hopes that local groups will revitalise facilities that might otherwise have to close. 

Community Ownership Funds will help the government fulfil its pledge to ‘level up’ communities. It’s anticipated the fund will encourage ‘hubs of innovation’ throughout the UK. 

Data suggests that community ownership benefits us all. At the last count in 2019, there were more than 6,300 community-owned businesses in England, generating a staggering amount of money. 

Figures show that these locally run assets contributed £220 million to the national economy and £150 million to regional areas. 

Check out our other Budget updates on alcohol and fuel duty freezes, SEISS grants 4 and 5 and the extension of the job retention scheme

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