Tories propose 'community right to buy' scheme

Charities could take over post offices, pubs and parks, says shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman

The Conservatives have pledged to introduce a ‘community right to buy' that will allow not-for-profit groups to take control of struggling local facilities, such as post offices, pubs and parks.

Under the scheme, community groups would have first refusal to bid for publicly owned assets as well as failing privately owned ones, such as post offices, pubs and shops.

"Gordon Brown's government has closed post offices and driven local pubs into the ground," said Caroline Spelman, shadow communities and local government secretary, in a party political broadcast last week.

"Conservatives will give bold new powers to local people to protect and improve their much-loved community assets and preserve the social fabric of their neighbourhoods."

The Tories claim that under Labour there are 5,400 fewer post offices, 200 fewer libraries and 3,500 fewer pubs across England.

Hugh Rolo, head of assets and investment at the Development Trusts Association, which manages the Government's asset transfer unit, welcomed the idea of a community right-to-buy scheme, which he said the DTA had been advocating for many years.

But he added: "We're concerned for it to be assets that are transferred, not liabilities." Further details, particularly on resourcing, were needed, he said.

The DTA estimates that 1,000 transfers of local authority-owned assets to third sector organisations are currently taking place.

A spokesman for third sector minister Angela Smith said the Government had invested £30m in transferring assets to community groups.

"The Tories are simply proposing a policy we are already implementing," she said.

"We have led the way in developing new models and mechanisms to enable communities to take control."


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