Mayor of London backs new fund to boost capital’s high streets

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Today, community business champions Power to Change and Co-operatives UK, supported by the Mayor of London, launched a new funding pilot designed to boost the capital’s high streets and civic centres.
29 Jan, 2021

Boosting Community Business London is providing £150,000 of grant funding to enable community groups to set-up and grow community businesses in their local area. Community businesses are profit generating organisations, run by and trading for the benefit of local people. They are proven to bring resilience, stability and economic benefits to local places and high streets – 56p of every pound spent in a community business stays in the local community.

The pilot is designed to empower local people to establish socially trading business and services that their local communities want and need. It will also help them to take on the sustainable management and ownership of locally important assets by supporting fundraising through community shares.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m committed to doing everything I can to support London’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This new scheme will give community groups the skills to build sustainable businesses, strengthen our high streets and help local areas across our city become more resilient. This is part of wider package of measures funded by my £6.6m Recovery Fund, which will help London meet some of the challenges we face as a result of the pandemic.

“London’s communities are full of innovation and creativity – I look forward to seeing the solutions they create to help the capital emerge even stronger from this incredibly challenging time.”

How it works

There will be a total of £150,000 of grants directly on offer, including:

  • 25 development grants to help London-based organisations set-up or transfer their operations to a community business model. It includes up to 8 days of bespoke business support, mentoring and training worth up to £4,000.
  • 5 established community businesses can apply £10,000 of support and guidance to help them to develop and launch community share offers.
  • Organisations participating in the programme who have developed an accredited share offer may be eligible for up to £100,000 of further equity investment from Power to Change.

Groups taking on heritage assets on high streets could apply for £340K equity match via the Architectural Heritage Fund, allocated up to 31 March 2023.

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, said: “Just like many towns across the UK, the capital’s high streets have been struggling with an identity crisis for decades resulting in declining footfall. The pandemic has created a seismic shift in our relationship with our local areas, with many people rediscovering, or discovering for the first-time, what’s right on their doorstep. But if we are to harness this renewed interest and return our high streets to the thriving civic centres they once were, we need a very different approach. Community business has a significant role to play. Set-up by local people and trading for the benefit of the community, they bring a localism and distinctiveness to high streets which has been proven to drive stability, resilience and growth. In short, community business has the power to create high streets people are proud to visit.”

Community businesses across London are already providing their local areas with vital services and preserving much loved community assets.

Rose Marley, CEO,  Co-operatives UK, said: “Community businesses like Wolves Lane give decision making power to local people and the profits they generate flow back into the community. At a time when high streets are feeling the impact of the pandemic, community shares provide a democratic way to raise finance, and we’re delighted to help groups across London to get the support they need.”

Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre, Haringey N22

When Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre, a plant nursery run by Haringey Council, closed its doors in 2017 a group of local people stepped up to take over the running of the site rather than see it sold. With its landmark glasshouses and resident terrapins, koi carp, and tropical plants, it was much loved by the local community and dubbed ‘mini-Eden’.

Today, Wolves Lane is thriving community business delivering an innovative food growing hub run by the local community in partnership with the Ubele Initiative, Crop Drop and OrganicLea. It’s commercial activities, including a popular veg box scheme, supports initiatives designed to support community inclusion and cohesion projects.

The site has remained in operation throughout the pandemic, although the business has focussed its priorities and adapted its services to meet the current needs of the local community during the crisis. Crop Drop, which runs the site’s veg box scheme has experienced a 30% surge in demand during the first lockdown in spring 2020 and which has largely been sustained.

The business has also launched the Meal Project, producing 300 meals a week for local people who need access to prepared meals. The business received emergency funding to kit out a kitchen to deliver this project.

Rachel Dring, Managing Director at Crop Drop, said: “The income we generate through the local organic box scheme enables Crop Drop to contribute our time and resources towards developing the community work at Wolves Lane Centre. Since Covid-19, as a group we’ve been able to set up a meal project and food growing initiative that donates nutritious meals and fresh produce to the most vulnerable in our community. Volunteer-led plant sales have helped local residents grow their own and put love and care into their gardens over lockdown while also helping to raise much needed funds for the Palm House.”

Harnessing community power

The pilot forms part of the Mayor of London, Power to Change and Cooperative UK’s individual Covid-19 recovery and renewal schemes, designed to support their communities during and beyond the pandemic.

It is part of the Mayor’s commitment to helping London become a fairer, greener, more open and vibrant city as we begin to recover from the pandemic. The pilot aligns with two missions agreed by the London Recovery Board: High Streets for All and Building Strong Communities.

Power to Change’s Community Business Renewal scheme is a £5 million package of support to enable community businesses affected by the Covid-19 crisis to adapt, renew and rebuild their businesses so they can remain financially viable and best serve their local communities as the pandemic unravels.

What are community shares?

Community shares are non-transferrable, withdrawable share capital that provide community businesses much needed money to start, to grow, and to be sustainable. Community shares can save local shops and pubs, finance renewable energy schemes, transform community facilities, support local food growing, fund new football clubs, restore heritage buildings, and above all, build stronger, more vibrant, and independent communities. This type of share capital can only be issued by co-operative societies, community benefit societies and charitable community benefit societies. Community shares are not like ordinary shares. They cannot be sold or transferred to someone else. Instead, the society allows shareholders to withdraw their money (share capital), subject to terms and conditions that protect the society’s financial security.

Shareholders have only one vote, regardless of the size of their shareholding, so the society is democratic. Community shares give local people a real stake in ownership of the local community business, as well as providing the community business with critical unrestricted funding. Find out more about community shares:

If you want to find out more information join our free webinars:

10am, Tuesday 2 February 2021 –

1pm, Thursday 11 February 2021 –

Applications open on Friday 29 January 2021 and close on Friday 19 February 2021. For more information visit