Community Spaces Northampton
Locality member Community Spaces Northampton (CSN) is a new community charity managing seven community centres in Northampton.
It aims to offer a better community centre service to local people. This case study describes the bidding process and the challenges involved in a multiple asset transfer.
In 2011 Northampton Borough Council (NBC) offered eight community centres for community asset transfer and expressions of interest received from 16 organisations – including six organisations bidding for all eight centres.
Organisations expressing an interest were given ten weeks to prepare a business plan with financial projections.
The assessment of the seven business plans received resulted in the selection of two bidders, one bidder to take over one centre, and a partnership – Community Spaces Northampton – to take over the remaining seven. CSN was an informal partnership led by the Alliston Garden Youth & Community Centre (AGYCC).
The development work to establish CSN formally was supported by Locality and Northamptonshire Social Enterprise Development Agency and included:
- formation of CSN as a charitable company
- legal support in lease and management agreement negotiations
- visit to Fresh Horizons to see at first hand a community business managing community centres
- HR support including TUPE
- condition surveys of all buildings
- business planning and accountancy support in setting up finance systems
Work continued after transfer to recruit and train trustees and a co-ordinator, raise finance for capital improvements, establish CSN’s profile and undertake an organisational restructure.
Regular meetings with NBC officers were critical to the transfer process – to track progress, identify sticking points and find solutions.
TUPE was a significant issue with two caretaking staff spending more than 50% of their time working at the seven centres and therefore transferring to CSN. To reduce the liability for CSN, the Council offered an indemnity and drafted an agreement enabling the caretakers to remain in the Council’s pension scheme.