The government is to cancel a £3.3m programme that was set up to help communities turn local pubs into cooperatives.
The Labour government announced the Community-Owned Pubs Support Programme in March. It was set to provide grants, which would have been match-funded by loans from the social lender Co-operative and Community Finance, to help 50 communities take their pubs into cooperative ownership.
But the new government has told the Plunkett Foundation, which was chosen to administer the fund, that the programme, funded by the Communities and Local Government department, will now be closed and replaced by guidance leaflets for communities facing pub closures.
Peter Couchman, chief executive of the foundation, said: "This is devastating news for each community that had hoped to save their local as a cooperative. The government has turned its back on communities that were looking to take more responsibility over their everyday lives."
The foundation said it would call an emergency summit to discuss other measures that could be used to help communities save their local pubs.
Local government minister Bob Neill said of the programme’s closure: "Pubs don’t want state handouts. The new government is to give local communities new powers to save local pubs. Pubs are a vital part of the fabric of community life."
He said the Localism Bill, which the government intends to introduce in November, would allow communities to bid to take on community pubs wherever they were up for sale.