A new report published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) highlights the challenges facing community organisations who wish to own or manage assets, such as buildings and land.
As the transfer of community assets has been given new impetus by the recent Localism Bill (which proposes to give local communities more control, including community rights to buy, to challenge and to build), JRF commissioned research into a range of community-based organisations who own and manage assets across the UK.
Carried out by a team from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), the study confirms many of the well established potential benefits associated with the community control of assets including a heightened sense of pride and identity, greater financial independence, improved access to services and increased opportunities for skills development.
However, the report warns that without the right conditions in place, asset ownership/management can struggle to achieve benefits. It found that:
- Community organisations need to be mindful of all the risks and costs involved, as assets can become liabilities that undermine community aspirations.
- Greater transparency is urgently required to ensure community organisations are provided with accurate information on the maintenance and running costs of buildings being transferred.
- A more professionalised approach to asset management is required with increasing emphasis on self-sustaining business models.
- Disadvantaged areas may lack capacity and there are likely to be more limited opportunities to generate revenue from community assets.
- Communities organisations need both time and support in developing the skills and capacity required to manage assets effectively.
JRF Programme Manager Josh Stott said:
The Big Society agenda and Localism Bill, offers new opportunities to create stronger and more sustainable communities. However this research highlights some of the challenges associated with the ownership of assets. Unless communities are given sufficient time and support, they will not be in a position to take control of assets and there is a real risk that some communities will be left behind.
Throughout 2010 and 2011 JRF has run a series of seminars looking at different issues relating to Community Assets.