Community ownership key to saving local council assets

HOME 5 News 5 Community ownership key to saving local council assets
New polling for Power to Change shows the public want communities to have priority in purchasing local council assets being sold off.  
29 Feb, 2024

Thursday 29 February 2024 

As Birmingham City Council announces plans to sell £750m of its assets due to financial pressure, new polling for the independent social change organisation Power to Change shows that the public strongly prefer that local councils assets are sold to the community rather than on the open market. 

When asked who should have priority in purchasing council assets, if anyone, when they are sold, community organisations and businesses run by local people are by far the most popular option for the public.  

Bar graph of polling results

Figure 1: Many local councils are facing financial challenges at the moment, and some councils are selling off assets that they own, such as buildings and community spaces. When they sell these assets, who do you believe should have priority in purchasing them, if anyone?

In light of this Power to Change are calling on government to take action to ensure that communities have a fair shot at purchasing these assets, so that more can move into community ownership. Alongside this, local people are organising to protect treasured assets through the Save Birmingham campaign.   

Jeevan Jones from Save Birmingham said: 

“As councils rush to fix their finances, there is a real risk that residents will lose the community places that matter to them. But there is another way. Community ownership can protect and improve community places, while also providing financial savings for councils. We urge Birmingham City Council to work with us to protect and improve the 200 community places that thousands of residents have nominated on the website, including much-loved libraries, leisure centres, parks, open spaces and more. And we welcome other councils and groups that want to repeat what we’ve started to do here in Birmingham.” 

Community-owned spaces contribute £220m to the UK economy, and 56p of every £1 they spend stays in the local economy, compared with just 40p for large private sector firms. Where there is community ownership on a high street, vacancy rates are reduced. Importantly, these spaces provide affordable, appropriate services and products for the community – they more nimbly meet shifting local demand than traditional high street occupants.  

 Power to Change argue that, with the right resources and powers, more assets could be transferred into community hands, helping to save important local spaces and create more resilient local economies. 

Nick Plumb, Associate Director for Policy and Insight at Power to Change said: 

“An extension and expansion of the Community Ownership Fund would help to provide the resources communities need to purchase these assets. Alongside this, communities need new powers like a Community Right to Buy, so that they have first dibs on purchasing assets of community value when they come up for sale. Birmingham won’t be the last council to take such measures, so it is vital that government acts before these assets are lost forever.” 


About Power to Change 

Power to Change is an independent social change organisation. We know community business strengthens the local community and we work to dismantle barriers, unlock funding, amplify what works, and make the case for change – to shape the conditions for community business to thrive. Power to Change received an original endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2015 and an additional grant of £20million in 2021.  @peoplesbiz 

About Save Birmingham 

Save Birmingham is new campaign, set up by Co-operatives West Midlands, the local representative body for the co-operative movement. Around one billion people are members of co-operatives and mutuals worldwide, and we work together to empower people to take positive action. 

For this campaign, we’re bringing together a range of partner organisations to give residents the ability and resources to protect the community spaces and services they care about. 

Our partners include national organisations that are experts in providing advice and support to communities, including Co-operatives UK, Plunkett Foundation, Locality and Power to Change. We also have local partners in the voluntary and community sectors such as Birmingham Community Matters, BVSC and the Birmingham Open Spaces Forum.  See our partners and supporters page for more.  

About The National Lottery Community Fund 

We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.   

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.