The government should extend from six to nine months the period in which community groups can bid to take on community assets, the Community and Local Government Select Committee says in a report published today.
The cross-party committee of MPs says that extending the moratorium on the sale of community assets to nine months "would strike a better balance between the rights of the community and of property owners".
The committee says that the government’s community rights programme has had mixed results since it was introduced two years ago.
The report says that the community right to bid to list local property as an asset of community value has been popular, but about half of all community bids to buy such assets have been unsuccessful. Other community rights to allow community groups to challenge to provide local services, to build housing and amenities and to reclaim land for public use have "rarely been exercised to their full extent", the committee says.
Labour's Clive Betts MP, the committee’s chair, said in a statement: "The takeover of the Ivy House pub in south London is a great example of a group of committed individuals using the community right to bid to save a much-loved local asset and take it into community ownership. But putting the bid together in time required a lot of dedication – even for a team with backgrounds in law, planning and conservation. Extending the moratorium on a sale from six to nine months will give communities more time to develop the necessary skills and contacts to develop their plans and find funding."
The committee says that further work is needed to determine what has happened to community groups that have received money to help them try to take over the running of local services, because it is "unclear what has happened to those groups that had received financial assistance".
Local authority procurement processes also need to change to encourage more community groups to challenge to take over services, the committee says. It argues that those commissioning services need to involve the community more "as a matter of routine".
The committee calls on the government to do more to raise awareness of community rights, including providing investment to community group membership bodies to support local people.
Tony Armstrong, chief executive of the umbrella body Locality, said in a statement: "More than 1,500 assets of community value have been nominated since the community rights were introduced, so it shows just how much appetite there is in communities to preserve their much-loved local buildings. Extending the moratorium from six to nine months would be a welcome move by the government as communities need time to put together a viable bid to save their precious assets."
Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of the local infrastructure organisation Navca, said in a statement that communities needed more support to use the powers.
"I hope that the government takes on board the committee’s view that, although the right to challenge can bring people into a dialogue with their local council, it can also be perceived as confrontational," he said. "I look forward to the government’s response and hope it uses this opportunity to strengthen the community rights to build and challenge."