News

Plunkett welcomes Community Right to Buy proposals but calls for more rights for rural communities

The Plunkett Foundation has welcomed the Government’s commitment to the Community Right to Buy as part of the Localism Bill but has warned that three new community rights need to be in place to make the Right to Buy work for rural communities.

Plunkett are calling for three new rights:

1. The right to first refusal
2. The right to a minimum of a 6 month window for communities to prepare a bid
3. The right to access appropriate financial and business support and advice

Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, says:  “The Plunkett Foundation welcomes the government’s announcement today committing to the Community Right to Buy.  Pubs and shops and other essential rural services are closing at record rates and we feel strongly that a range of new rights are needed for communities to help them save what is important to them. 

“This first step is welcome and we will continue to work with the government to ensure that the Community Right to Buy is developed in a way that will make a difference for the growing number of communities that are looking to community-ownership and co-operative models.  Communities need access to a decent period of time alongside appropriate support and finance and we hope that these needs are considered as part of the government’s vision for communities taking over and running essential local services.”


The Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket: the first community-owned pub

There are four legally registered co-operative pubs in the UK.  82 communities expressed an interest in the Community-Owned Pubs Support Programme that was announced in March and unfortunately cut in August.  There are 52,500 pubs in Britain - 6,000 fewer pubs now than November 2005.  Pubs are closing at a rate of 39 per week and 2,500 pubs closed in 2009.

There are 247 community-owned shops in the UK.  39 new community-owned shops opened in 2009 alone saving 10% of shops that would have closed otherwise (400 village shop closures last year).  The total number of volunteer time per year going into keeping community-owned shops open is over 1 million hours.  In 25 year, 255 community-owned village shops have opened and only 8 have ever closed – 97% of community-owned shops that have opened are still open.

[ENDS]

For press and media enquiries, please contact Katherine Darling on Katherine.darling@plunkett.co.uk or call 01993 814381.

Notes to Editors

The Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) helps rural communities through community-ownership to take control of the issues important to them.  Founded in 1919, Plunkett supports communities looking to set up and run community-owned rural shops, wider community-owned rural services and community food and farming enterprises as a way of improving the lives of rural people.

Plunkett manages the Community Shops Network (www.plunkett.uk.net), the only national site and networking for community-owned rural shops.  There are currently 246 community-owned rural shops in the UK with 39 new shops opening in 2009 alone.  Community-ownership now saves 10% of rural shops that would have closed otherwise.  56% of community-owned shops currently provide Post Office services.

New information links:

Localism Bill 2010-11 - http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/localism.html

Localism Bill starts a new era of people power - http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/newsroom/1794971

• Devolving significant new powers to councils
• Establishing powerful new rights for local people and communities
o Powers to hold local authorities to account
o Right to challenge to take over services
o Right to bid to buy local assets such as libraries, pubs and shops
o Right to veto excessive council tax rises
• Radically reforming planning
• Making housing fairer and more democratic
• Creating powerful incentives for economic growth

Community Right to Buy video link (including a clip of Hambleton Community Shop) - http://www.communities.gov.uk/multimedia/newsroom/1794239

Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide - http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/decentralisationguide

• Decentralisation six essential actions to move from Big Government to Big Society

1. Lift the burden of bureaucracy
2. Empower communities to do things their way
3. Increase local control of public finance
4. Diversify the supply of public services
5. Open up government to public scrutiny
6. Strengthen accountability to local people

Localism Bill Media Background Note - http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/newsroom/word/1795339.doc

• Community Right to Buy
This will require local authorities to maintain a list of public or private assets of community value put forward for consideration by communities. When listed assets come up for disposal (either the freehold or a long leasehold), communities will be given the chance to develop a bid and raise the capital to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities to save sites which are important to the community, which will contribute to tackling social need and building up resources in their neighbourhood.

• Community Right to Challenge
A right for voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, parish councils and local authority employees delivering a service, to challenge a local authority, by expressing an interest in running any service for which they are responsible. A local authority must consider and respond to this challenge. The challenge may trigger a procurement exercise for that service in line with the relevant procedure, which the challenging organisation could then bid in, alongside others. The right is part of the Government’s aim to create a Big Society.

Grant Shapps: New legislation will extend the Right to Build across the country - http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1795399

• Right to build extended across England (previously just rural areas)
• Support levels required reduced from 75% to 50%

Community organisations launch ‘Real Power for Communities’ campaign to prevent MPs watering down the Localism Bill - http://www.rp4c.org.uk/index.html

• Looking to ensure that the Localism Bill really puts power in the hands of communities
• Looking to ensure that Localism does not stop at local authorities