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Mar 23

The future of community asset ownership: Places and Spaces event

Assets

Places and Spaces event

On Monday, we held a panel discussion in the House of Commons to talk about community asset ownership and how we can make it a policy priority in Westminster.

We brought together politicians, Locality member organisations and policy experts in an inspiring evening.

First, we heard from Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, who are currently funding community organisations to take over assets. Their recent report A Common Interest, highlighted that although there is enabling legislation for community asset transfer, it is a lack of informal understanding within local authorities is limiting action. Vidhya emphasised the need for local authorities to be less focused on the short-term cash benefits of selling off local assets to the highest bidder, and more focused on the long-term social value community ownership can generate. She stated that we can put control into people’s hands through community ownership, referring to assets as an “engine for transformation”.

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change speaks at the Places and Spaces event

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change speaks at the Places and Spaces event

We then heard from Andy Jackson, Trust Manager at Heeley Development Trust, who built the community-owned Heeley People’s Park in Sheffield. Heeley People’s Park is an excellent example of a community owned asset that has transformed land and engaged their local neighbourhoods. Andy stressed that we can make communities more independent and empowered by taking the steps outlined in Locality’s Places and Spaces report and ensuring funding for an expansion of asset ownership. He emphasised the significant economic impact that Heeley People’s Park, and community-owned assets generally, has, whilst also ensuring that the community is able to hold on to a vital properties.

Heeley People’s Park is in Louise Haigh’s constituency and she praised the work Heeley Development Trust have done to transform the area – not just in creating a beautiful park, but in terms of the broader economic impact of community-owned assets and the huge returns on investment for local people that they produce. Louise emphasised that now is the time to develop a national strategy, as many local authorities are under pressure to dispose of assets and bring in money. Instead, local authorities must think about the long-term benefits of community asset ownership and develop better partnership working. She believes that parliamentarians should help connect community organisations with local authority officers and build the trusting relationships needed to make a step change in community ownership. Louise commended the ground breaking work at Locality and in communities, and committed to keep up the pressure in parliament whilst taking a cross-party approach.

Places and Spaces event

Jason McCartney, Conservative MP for Colne Valley echoed the importance of community asset transfer and the role that community ownership can play in bringing people together. Jason spelled out opportunities to push the agenda forward, in particular through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. Some of this fund should be allocated to asset ownership development and Jason committed to talking to Andrew Percy, the Northern Powerhouse minister about making this happen. There are also big opportunities to be found through LEPS and local growth deals. What’s more, local authorities need to develop more consistent asset transfer policies, particularly as community-owned assets make business sense, can generate their own income and save councils money.

We had a great turnout with many passionate representatives from Locality members who run and own their local assets. We heard a range of stories and a clear emphasis on the need to recognise the range of community-owned assets and the cities, towns and villages they are located in. Many in the audience were concerned about the lack of funding for assets, and voiced the need to find more funding opportunities and clearer guidelines within local authorities.

Community assets are about making sure that communities are connected, sustainable and cohesive. We are calling for a £1bn Community Asset Investment Plan, which you can read more about here.

Take action by emailing your MP to ask them to support our call for investment in crucial community spaces – use our template here.

Follow @localitynews and #futureofassets to keep up to date with the campaign and tell us your stories of great assets and those in need of support.

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