There are over 6,300 community-owned assets such as shops, village halls and leisure centres in England, adding nearly £220 million a year to the UK economy and £150 million to local economies, according to analysis commissioned by Power to Change and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Entitled “Our assets, our future: the economics, outcomes and sustainability of assets in community ownership” and authored by a team of researchers from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, the analysis finds that community-owned assets are also financially robust with three-quarters of community-owned assets saying they are in good financial health despite limited resources.
Nearly a third of all community-owned assets came into community ownership in the last decade, according to the analysis, signalling that this is a growth sector.
The research also highlights areas where the sector needs more support to fulfil its economic potential, finding:
o Poorer areas are less likely to have community-owned assets, with the most deprived 30% of neighbourhoods containing 18% of assets.
o 1 in 5 assets made an operating loss of 10% or more of revenue in the last financial year.
o Rural and less deprived areas tend to have higher numbers of assets in community ownership yet some urban areas buck the trend – particularly Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Southwark, suggesting the importance of creating an environment supportive of community ownership.
The authors are calling for national and local government to consider a range of measures to support the growth of the community ownership sector, such as making it easier to transfer assets, providing more business planning and general support for community organisations, and ensuring community owners have more reliable access to cheap finance and greater protections against financial difficulties.
Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, said:
“While many are fond of community-owned shops, parks, pubs and heritage buildings, few are aware how economically important these assets are. Now, for the first time, we know that they play an increasingly vital role, not just in the places where they’re based but in the wider economy. When communities directly own land and buildings, they can start to meet the real needs of people in their area. That’s why we need concerted action from policymakers at all levels to support community ownership.”
Ian Wilson, lead author and Principal Research Fellow from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, added:
“The findings from our research show that our community-owned assets contribute significantly to the UK economy and that this is a growth sector. Most people involved in running community assets do so in order to preserve and improve them because they are of value to their local community.
“However, it is important to note the research shows that although 31% of these assets are in excellent financial health, the sector needs more financial support in order to fulfil its economic potential.”
The report “Our assets, our future: the economics, outcomes and sustainability of assets in community ownership” can be downloaded at this LINK.
Image: St Tudy Community Shop in Cornwall