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Asset or liability?: transferring buildings

Transferring buildings to the voluntary and community sector - “assets can become liabilities”

Transferring buildings and land from central and local government  to the voluntary and community sector has always been possible, was encouraged by the last government, and forms an important part of the localism agenda of the current government.

The Joseph Rowntree Trust has been looking at the evidence over the last few years – how successful has it been, and what are the problems?

They say that

“The current political and economic climate means there may never be a better opportunity for community organisations to buy or manage assets such as buildings, parks and wind farms for local benefit. But can they make the most of this opportunity while surviving spending cuts, political pressures and commercial competition?”

Some of their findings are

  • Despite the loss of public funding and the a gloomy economic outlook, there is an unprecedented opportunity for voluntary and community groups to own and manage local assets.
  • There is a long history of different forms of community ownership to consider
  • Many challenges must be overcome. Money is scarce; assets such as buildings can become liabilities; groups need time and support to develop their plans, and future success cannot be guaranteed.
  • The government needs to realise the importance of timely and adequate support, the need to think of the public benefits when arranging sales, as well as what the costs will be if buildings continue neglected
  • Voluntary and community groups need to be self-aware, and sufficiently prepared, and skilled to manage projects and buildings -  and be ready for a long-term commitment.

Their paper “Community assets: emerging learning, challenges and questions” summarises a number of seminars, other events and research papers, and links to more detailed reports and discussions.