Government-funded community shares scheme to be launched this year

Community shares have been used by fans to gain ownership of football clubs, such as FC United of Manchester

FC United of Manchester's planned stadium
FC United of Manchester's planned stadium

A government-backed Community Shares Unit will be launched later this year to support communities that want to raise investment and buy local resources.

Documents released with a job advert for a manager for the unit say it will operate over the next three years and will support the use of community shares and bonds, which allow large numbers of people to invest small amounts of capital in local projects without the costly regulation involved in a standard share issue.

The unit will be funded by the Communities and Local Government department and will be run as a partnership between Locality, the umbrella body for community infrastructure organisations, and Co-operatives UK, the body for community ownership. Several other bodies will sit on a steering group.

Community share issues have been used most often to buy shops, but have also been used to fund energy projects and to take over football clubs, including FC United of Manchester, which plays in the Northern Premier League and recently raised £1.6m to fund a new stadium. So far, 256 projects are under way using this model.

The unit will build on the work of an existing project, Community Shares, which has studied and supported community shares over the past few years.

The unit will aim to support 500 social ventures and back 200 share issues. It will act as a central resource for social investment intermediaries, government and other stakeholders. It will also collect data and publish best practice.

A spokesman for Co-operatives UK said he could not give further details about the unit at this stage, including how much funding it would receive from CLG.

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