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Community-owned assets add £220m a year to economy, research finds

Bramley Baths, Leeds

A major study of community-owned land and buildings has revealed there are over 6,300 community-owned assets in the UK, adding £220m to the economy every year.

As well as demonstrating for the first time the significant and growing contribution made to the economy by community-owned assets, Our assets, our future highlights areas where the sector needs more support in order to fulfil its economic potential.

The research was commissioned by Power to Change and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and is the first full analysis of the economic contribution and financial health of England’s community-owned assets in over a decade.

The research found that poorer areas are less likely to have community-owned assets, with the most deprived 30% of neighbourhoods containing just 18% of assets.

The report also highlights the financial difficulty many community-owned buildings are under, with one in five assets making an operating loss of 10% or more of revenue in the last financial year.

The authors have called for a range of measures which national and local government should consider to support the growth of the community ownership sector such as making it easier to transfer assets into community ownership, providing more business planning and general support for community organisations, and ensuring community owners have more reliable access to ‘cheap’ finance.

Ian Wilson, lead author and Principal Research Fellow from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, said: ‘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 includes a case study of Rotunda, charity and community hub based in Kirkdale, Liverpool, which provides a range of services for the local community, including a café/bistro, garden, education and training courses, a nursery and a school.

It’s based in a row of Georgian houses and owns the freehold to the buildings, purchased from private sellers from 1986 onwards by local community leaders with financial support from Liverpool Community College. It has 27 staff members and 30 volunteers.

Community ownership of Rotunda means the organisation is focused on meeting the needs of the community, including providing important services and jobs locally, and an inclusive and welcoming environment where people can access education and support. It also helps to reduce social isolation and provides (or signposts to) key services needed by the community.

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