Headlines: May 16th, 2007



A plan for the sale of public assets to local communities will be launched next week by Communities and Local Government. The sell-off follows publication of a report on Community Management and Ownership of Assets. The report argues that transferring public assets from local councils to communities not only leads to more responsive services that meet local people’s priorities, but can also create more confident empowered communities with greater civic spirit. Community ownership can bring people from different backgrounds together; it can foster a sense of belonging and play a role in enhancing the local environment, alleviating poverty and raising people’s aspirations.

Local councils have powers to sell or lease assets at sub-market prices, compulsorily purchase derelict property, or require landowners to clean up sites that are adversely affecting the local neighbourhood. The sale price of an asset could be as low as one pound.

Researchers found that although there were no barriers to transferring assets there was limited enthusiasm for doing so. Factors limiting transfers were a lack of understanding by councils and communities about the benefits and potential for sales and fear of the risks involved. Managing and developing buildings was seen by some as a complex, technical business for community organisations. Some councils were also concerned to maximise the capital gain of assets.

The sale supports the Local Government White Paper published last year which encourages councils to shape their communities.

The sell-off plan to be launched next week aims to promote a new era of civic pride where every local council is asked to explore whether public assets could be handed over or run by the community. There will be seminars, roadshows and training as well as use of the media, online and published information. Good practice will be promoted and there will be bottom up mechanisms such as the proposed Community Call for Action and the existing Public Request to Order Disposal.

The Cabinet Office’s 30m pounds Community Assets fund will enable community-led organisations to own and run under-used local authority buildings.