The government must better support grass-roots community ventures and guarantee funding to community asset bids, especially in less affluent places, according to a report from the think tank Localis.
The publication, Local Delivery – Protecting Social Infrastructure, concludes that community asset transfer still “relies too much on local capacity and resources”, which it says “are key determinants” to its success.
Disadvantaged areas “lack the capacity to take on the process of asset ownership and are therefore places where important assets are under threat”, it says.
The report, published this week, calls on the government to guarantee more secured and core funding to support bids for local people to take over publicly owned community assets, such as town halls, sports centres or libraries.
The report warns that a lack of consistent support for grass-roots community ventures could lead to “sapping the energy and enthusiasm of capable volunteers”.
It says the government must protect community volunteers in deprived areas from cuts to any benefits they receive.
“People who volunteer on a regular basis should not face benefit cuts,"I it says. "In more deprived areas this is vital to enable local people to take the initiative and build community capacity."
Other suggestions to the government in the report include extending the six-month moratorium in selling an asset to 12 months and providing early-stage development funding (pre-feasibility) to projects where previously people have been unable to proceed because of a lack of funds to carry out a business case assessment.
Jonathan Werran, chief executive of Localis, said: “At a time when our very concept of social contact is being distorted and threatened by the need to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, our need for strong community ties has, paradoxically, never been greater.
“The recovery will be driven as much by the dictates of restoring social wellbeing as economic renewal.
“So policy must be directed to allowing capable local people to provide all manner of niche services and neighbourhood enterprises in their community facilities and care for much-loved open spaces as well.”
Richard Harries, director of the Power to Change Research Institute, which carries out research with the aim of shaping policy and practice around community businesses, said: “This timely report presents central and local government with a golden opportunity to build on this national spirit of goodwill.
“We knew before the pandemic that local people were often best placed to meet local challenges.
“With millions of new volunteers keen to support others in their communities, now is the time to completely rethink how we invest in our shared social infrastructure.”