Asset transfer conundrum for the UK

The issue of the transfer of assets to the community has thrown up a geographical divide across the UK.

In Scotland, Glasgow City Council has proposed a major transfer of heritage properties to community organisations in order to help charities win refurbishment funding.

But in London, Merrick Cockell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council and chair of London Councils, told a meeting of local authorities they should preserve their assets as security against future uncertainty.

Glasgow Council said it was keen to transfer assets it can't afford to refurbish because community groups were more likely to win lottery and European funding if they owned the buildings they were seeking to regenerate. The council plans to recycle the proceeds of any sales to provide grants to community groups for refurbishment projects.

"Releasing vacant properties for local regeneration projects will bring them back into productive use while empowering local communities to refurbish and develop them to suit their needs," said George Ryan, executive member for regeneration at the council.

But Elizabeth Balgobin, chief executive of London Voluntary Service Council, said many councils in London were reluctant to sell their assets because they thought prices might rise. She warned that in many cases buildings were unused and could thus fall into disrepair and become liabilities.

"Councils can find other options that transfer assets back to the community," she said. "They can offer long leases and peppercorn rents, which allow community organisations to take advantage of their facilities."

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